In his eloquent but blunt style, Sharpton urges African Americans to stop the campaign by conservatives to reverse gains we’ve made since 1963. Moreover, he told the crowd to be more vigilant in fighting the sophisticated, pernicious foes that attack voting rights and create an atmosphere in which open season on young African American and Latino males is not only permissible but endorsed.
“We come here today as the children of Dr. King to say that we are going to face Jim Crow’s children because Jim Crow had a son called James Crow Jr., Esquire. He writes voting suppression laws and puts it in language that looks different but the results are the same. They come with laws that tell people to stand their ground. They come with laws to tell people to stop and frisk but I come to tell you just like our mothers and fathers beat Jim Crow we will beat James Crow Jr., Esquire.”
Our mission, Sharpton asserts, is clear: The unwavering defense of the Dream: “We saw Dr. King and the Dream cross the Red Sea of apartheid and segregation but we have to cross the Jordan of unequal economic parity. We have to cross the Jordan of continued discrimination and mass incarceration. We got to keep fighting and substantiate that the dream was not for one generation.”
Jamie Foxx says African American entertainers and entrepreneurs need to get involved as well, learning valuable lessons from the generation of performers who applied their celebrity and financial resources to support the 1963 March and Civil Rights Movement as whole. He shared how renowned entertainer-activist Harry Belafonte, a close friend and confidante of King, had routinely posted bail for the civil rights leader when he was arrested during demonstrations. And the legendary Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, produced an album with one of a King’s speech, “The Great March to Freedom, ” released on August 28, 1963. He says it’s clear the role today’s superstars must play.
“The young folks [must] pick it up now,” Foxx told the crowd, “so that when we’re 87 years old, talking to the young folks, we can say it was me, Will Smith, Jay Z, Kanye, Alicia Keys, Kerry Washington, the list goes on and on.”
The repayment of the debt is to continue the movement. President Obama, who keeps a bust of King and a framed program of the March in the Oval Office as reminders “of what’s at stake,” says we must ensure that the civil rights leaders of the March and their efforts do not die in vain.
“To suggest, as some sometimes do that little has changed, that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years… But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.”
It becomes the responsibility of the children and grandchildren of the Dream to make sure the bell of freedom rings loudly across America.