OC Groups Ready for March on Washington
By Dianne Anderson
Throngs of renown activists, powerhouse organizations, and marchers of all persuasions dedicated to the cause will converge on Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC to revisit the same social justice ground their parents once fought – some to their death — to protect.
Led by Martin Luther King, III, Board Chairman of the Drum Major Institute, Arndrea Waters King, and Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder & President of the National Action Network, the August 26 historic march will rewind on issues of civil and human rights at the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington.
At the march, Dr. Helena Johnson expects to hear more about the fight that her organization started in 1935 for equal education, affirmative action, health issues, and specifically maternal health for black women.
It is a tall order, but she said NCNW continues to work in different states on various issues and is meeting with legislators. They sat in when President Biden went over student loan debt, and how he tried to help the underserved.
The group participated in discussions with national law groups to hear parts of arguments, including the High Court ruling against affirmative action compared to rich parents buying their children’s college enrollment through Legacy Admissions.
“Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson talked about Affirmative Action, and how it affected underserved Black folks,” said Dr. Helena Johnson, Southern California Area President of the National Council of Negro Women, including 14 sections. “It’s one of those things that we need to pay attention to because we had Prop. 209 in California in the 1990s.”
Dr. Johnson feels the march will prove power in numbers. NCNW members have also been preparing for 2024, strategies for voter registration, keeping vigilant at the polls so everything is running the way it should be.
“Our goal is to march so they understand what Black women are doing throughout the United States. It’s a proven fact when it comes to the vote, if no one else shows up Black women will. They are becoming aware of that,” she said.
She is proud of how their organization has grown. NCNW started with 33 affiliates, and today with over 330 campus and community based sections, they connect with about two million like-minded others and affiliates nationally.
“We own a building in Washington DC between the Capital and White House at 633 Pennsylvania Ave. Dorothy Heights made sure we had that building before she died. She did so much while president,” she said.
In a statement, Rev. Al Sharpton, President and Founder of the National Action Network (NAN) said to remember why the march continues, that the civil rights of Black, Brown, Asian, Jewish, LGBTQ Americans and women are under relentless attack.
“There is a concerted effort to undermine our democracy. There are many working week by week to peel away these rights, take away our history, or stop us from celebrating holidays like Juneteenth. I am honored to stand with the King family as we bring together these groups for a historic, cross-cultural cross-generational demonstration to show that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Together, we will show the nation the strength in our unity and our resolve to realize Dr. King’s dream of a fair nation for all of us,” he said on the website.
Locally, Orange County NAN chapter members will attend the march, under the theme that it’s not a commemoration, it’s a continuation.
Darlene Futrel said the objective is to get re-energized, and move the needle.
“We’re still fighting for the same things we did decades ago, civil rights, police violence, voting rights, it’s the same fight,” said Futrel, president of the Orange County chapter NAN. “It’s one thing to outline and address and point out a problem, and it’s another thing to solve it.”
She expects power in unity, and the march to be a galvanizing force. NAN-OC is taking the opportunity to hear from activists that have been doing the work for much longer than their own local effort.
California may not have the same voting challenges as other states, but she feels everyone must do what they can to ensure the Black community is registered to vote.
“It’s going to be the most critical because we don’t want to go backward, that we remember what it was like 60 years ago when they stood there. Look at where we are right now and where we want to be. Whatever we want to achieve, we’re going to be of one mind.”
Among numerous supporters, the march co-chairs include AAJC, Anti-Defamation League, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Legal Defense Fund, NAACP, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Council of Negro Women, National Urban League and UNIDOS.
Joan Powell recalls her early childhood memory of her parents, grassroots organizers in their hometown with the NAACP, bringing back political justice pins for the kids from the original 1963 March on Washington.
She said it’s going to be huge, but it is distressing to see how much ground was lost in the agenda that President Obama accomplished.
“When he became president, a lot of us took a sigh of relief, it finally happened. Everything our forefathers went through, now we see ourselves in the mirror — we can be president, our children and grandchildren,” said Ms. Powell, President of Orange County Chapter NCNW.
It was short-lived.
Today, she said it seems like a throwback to the 60s – the race hate, supreme court issues, erosion of women’s rights, the Alabama white mob attack, healthcare rights, George Floyd, the Voting Rights Act.
“There’s going to be a lot of people there with a lot of concerns. I think this march is going to be more impactful maybe than the march of 1963. It’s going to be a combination of diverse people, not only African American, but people that realize the cause is not only affecting us, but others in the country,” she said.
For more information, see https://nationalactionnetwork.net/
For more information on National NCNW, see https://ncnw.org/