On the heels of U.S. Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action and voting rights, Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called upon all Americans to “make certain connections in this 50th anniversary year” of the March on Washington. Joined by a group of august leaders during a luncheon event hosted by AT&T’s Tanya Lombard, King espoused her vision for what the commemoration of the 1963 March means.
“There are thousands, perhaps millions, of young people who don’t fully realize how that time period [the civil rights era] connects with who they are today, the opportunities that they have today, and their responsibility to continue in the freedom struggle for those who come behind them,” King told Politic365 during an exclusive interview.
“My vision is to see that we use this as a great moment to educate young people about the movement, about where we are today, and with the recent [Supreme Court] ruling,” she continued, “it gives us a wonderful teachable moment.”
The irony of the high court’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act, coming out 48 years after the original march is not lost on King, who sees the decision as a rallying cry for renewed civic engagement. “This happened in your time, in your generation. This is not something that happened way back then,” she proclaimed.
On Wednesday, August 28, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where he delivered his famed I Have a Dream speech to roughly 300,000 rally participants on the National Mall. The march is credited by many as being a necessary aid to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Fifty years later, Dr. Bernice King, President and CEO of The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, is orchestrating a four-day conference, celebration and remembrance ceremony to help activate the next generation of civil rights advocates. Beginning on August 25th and ending on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, the commemorative includes a collegiate conference, march reenactment, church service, K-12 virtual tour about the civil rights movement, panel discussions, a festival and a concert. In addition to inviting live participation in the event, King is looking to engage broader audiences by using social media and tech-focused outreach strategies across all four days of the event.
The message for this year’s celebration is clear: it’s time to move beyond the dream and engage a new generation in new and meaningful ways. “I don’t like the word dream because I don’t want people to stay in a dream-like state,” King said. “I prefer words like activate. We’ve got to be sharp in this moment.”
Holding strong to tenets of engagement beyond the voting booth, non-violence and educational achievement, and realizing the important role that technology plays in the modern civil rights movement, Dr. King is laser-focused that this year’s celebration be looked at not only as a recollection of the past, but also as a movement toward the future.
“We have to take time to educate and inform the next generation about their responsibility outside of voting, and show them how to have a strong voice that makes a difference. Yes, your vote does count,” she said,” but it’s the collective voices that get heard, that are engaged consistently, because if you just vote and go back home, you get ignored.”