The March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom
The March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963 was a crucial event in American history that was the result of years of injustice against the black citizens of this country. It is the notable setting of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech that's been praised and studied by orators throughout recent decades and hosted over 200,000 protestors. It also led President John F. Kennedy to initiate the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 that formally banned the practice of discrimination of all forms against an individual based on race, color, ethnic origin, sex, and religion.
Many factors went into the culmination of this protest. In the summer of 1941, A. Phillip Randolph (who founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters) wanted to initiate a march on Washington, D.C. to call attention to the defense industry's discriminatory policies despite the necessity of workers during wartime. As this call for action eventually resulted in President Franklin Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802. This mandated the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission which would investigate allegations of racial discrimination among defense firms. The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial on the third anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education in May 1957 did occur. In the following year, a Youth March for Integrated Schools was hosted that October in protest of the lack of progress following the ruling. However, by 1963 at the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, the realization of unfulfilled goals from prior protests and the social issues that faced black citizens disgruntled and mobilized the black community and the overall movement itself and resulted in the March on Washington.
So what can we learn from this? Ultimately, justice will always prevail and, despite backlash and defeats, social justice advocates must always remember to dedicate themselves fully into what they believe in and continue to make advocate progress.
This material is sourced from King Institute Resources
The Stonewall Riots: Beginnings of Gay Liberation
While it has been stated that gay rights have apparently increased at a relatively speedy rate, the reality is that the movement for gay rights has had a visible presence for decades before the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gender-neutral marriage equality on June 26, 2015.
Many people involved in gay rights advocacy often refer to the Stonewall Riots as a pinnacle and catalyst for social change for the lives of, not only gay Americans, but also for igniting the broader LGBTQ+ movement. In June 28, 1969, local police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular hangout for the local gay community. This occurred at a time when being gay was illegal, in addition to the obvious, simple public displays of affection, public gatherings, and meeting places for gay/bi individuals were forbidden by the law. Disgruntled with this systematic injustice and constant rioting in local gay bars, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn did something almost unheard of for the gay community: they fought back. Amidst an initial quiet among the patrons of the bar during the raid, the simple words "Do Something!" by an unidentified lesbian who was arrested by the police then hit with a club after complaining that her handcuffs were too tight ignited the rioting. Civil unrest lasted until about 4 am the following morning and, by then, police had already trashed Stonewall Inn following orders by the commanding officer, Inspector Pine.
However, an outpouring of support was delivered by New Yorkers to the local LGBT community in the following days. For the next five days, supporters gathered at nearby Christopher Park to organize and mobilize into what became the Gay Liberation Front, the precursor for the Gay Rights Movement. Support groups, gay pride marches, and open LGBT dances were also organized as a result of this initial gathering.
The lesson to be learned from this is to always fight back against injustice, especially when it happens to be systemic. The patrons of the Stonewall Inn chose to do so and, although at the intial cost of their beloved bar, they gained support and mobilized the Gay Rights Movement which led to a shift in public opinion and the creation of LGBTQ-friendly policies that span every single state and territory in the nation. While work still has to be done, especially for the inclusion of trans* individuals, it is important to reminisce and reflect on the progress that has been made thus far.
This material was sourced from the STOP-Homophobia website.
Protests at Ferguson: Brooding Racial Tensions
On August 9, 2015, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a Ferguson Police Officer. In the following weeks, protsts, rallies, and demonstrations in most major cities around the country took place as a result of national outrage and sharply divided, and remains to divide, the public. However, these recent and past incidences of police brutality are symptoms of institutionalized racism and improper police protocols that are endemic throughout police departments around the nation.
Since the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, an unarmed teenager with a 3.7 GPA, police brutality has been brought back to the national spotlight. Since then, countless unarmed people of color have been involved in cases of police brutality and brooding tensions between communities of color and the police have arisen. However, the most important thing to remember is the importance of conversations. It seems that as movements such as #BlackLivesMatter continue to shed light on police brutality the tensions associated and, as a result, many people have used their platforms to bring their two cents to the national conversation. For instance, Selma brought into light the struggles associated with the black experience before legal protections were enacted. Additionally, many shows, such as Blue Bloods and The Carmichael Show have recently aired episodes with relation to these issues. In short, the national conversation needs to continue in order to solve the issues we face: police brutality among others.
The Lessons We Can Learn As Advocates
By having the uncomfortable conversations about the issues that marginalized groups face, speaking up for the underrepresented (or for self-advocates, standing up for yourself) when no one else will, and mobilizing others who are sympathetic to your cause, there's no end to the possibilities. Making a difference only truly takes a shared goal plus the action needed to make it happen.
However, this isn't meant to condone violence. Some of the protests in Baltimore and Ferguson turned violent and, as a result, local communities - not the authorities themselves, faced the damage and had to cleanup. Peaceful protests are a necessity in activism and violence only enhances the problem and denigrates the value of the issues that other activists are attempting to shed light on and should not be tolerated by any advocacy movement that aims for positive social change.