ATKINS: Constructing Democracy 60 Years After the March on Washington

Sixty years in the past, greater than 200,000 folks descended upon the Nationwide Mall for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, making a stand for freedom and equality. Black folks, girls, and poor folks had been handled like second-class residents for too lengthy, and it was time to demand justice.

The March led to unprecedented federal laws addressing the systemic racism and financial injustices that had plagued Black folks by means of slavery and the Jim Crow period. Inside a yr, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed, adopted by the Nationwide Voting Rights Act of 1965 a yr later. Sit-ins, protests, and different demonstrations set the stage for change, however the March on Washington set a brand new commonplace for civic engagement and exemplified the influence that may very well be achieved after we manage broad coalitions towards a typical objective. These classes will stand the check of time. The march stays a name to motion for social justice advocates to proceed the battle towards discrimination, voter suppression, police brutality, and wage disparity. It’s also a platform to raise the better narrative on racial injustice.

Now, as we commemorate August 28, 1963, we perceive that whereas progress has been made, we now have a lot extra work to do. Our democracy is fragile, and we face new threats every day.

In Georgia, threats towards democracy linger round each nook. Over the previous 5 years alone, potential voters have confronted a brand new wave of voter purges, the elimination of polling locations, reductions in early voting choices, limitations on using mail-in/absentee ballots, efforts to undermine ballot employees and laws that might topic residents to a legal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for claimed suspicion of voting irregularity. We’ve at all times been a hotbed for civil rights and social justice, however latest years have proven simply how far some folks will go to suppress the need of the folks. The wants of actual folks too usually take a backseat to partisan jockeying, rampant mis- and disinformation, and wholesale agendas reversing a long time of authorized precedent selling fairness. At this second, we can not afford to view the March as a factor of the previous. The battle for our most elementary civil rights by no means ended. We want pressing motion and constant civic engagement.

That’s why for greater than a decade, ProGeorgia has labored to assist uphold the legacy of neighborhood organizing, civic engagement, and viable coverage change set forth by the trailblazers behind the March on Washington. Alongside our 61 companion organizations, we proceed to make use of good, strong, and revolutionary methods to rebuild democracy and amplify civic engagement. Whereas we manage for fairness in our state, we additionally attempt to present a framework for creating people-centered, optimistic change nationwide.

What we’ve discovered handiest is centering our work round three main premises: relational, relatively than transactional engagement; elevating the values, views, voices and management of girls of colour; and embracing, amplifying, and mobilizing younger folks.

“Change occurs on the pace of belief,” stated Stephen M.R. Covey, and the Rev. Jennifer Bailey added that “relationships are constructed on the pace of belief, and social change occurs on the pace of relationships.” Thus, longstanding, systemic, and generational change is constructed over time by creating significant relationships. It’s not sufficient to rally of us for a single election or marketing campaign. You have to give folks an actual purpose to imagine that their voice and vote issues. Much more, you should present them how one can have interaction within the democratic course of recurrently, past election cycles, and remind them that our methods are solely as robust because the individuals who run them. We should maintain these elected and appointed officers accountable to the need of the folks.

Past non-transactional relationships, it’s vital to heart and elevate the voices, values, and management of individuals guiding this work day-after-day, lots of whom are Black girls and girls of colour. The face of civic engagement should replicate the communities being served. We want extra brown, Black, queer, and differently-abled folks as activists, organizers, candidates, policymakers, judges, district attorneys and lawmakers.

Whilst we attempt towards better inclusivity, we should additionally embrace and elevate the beliefs and actions of younger folks. On the time of the March on Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr. was 34 years outdated, and Georgia’s personal senior statesman, John Lewis, was simply 23 and a fierce advocate for justice. Younger folks have at all times been on the coronary heart of actions for civil rights and social justice, and actual progress requires that we proceed to amplify their efforts. Participating them right now means talking their language and empowering them to have interaction on their very own phrases.

So, the sixtieth anniversary of the March on Washington represents a commemoration and a continuation of the work that’s already been carried out to make America reside as much as her promise. As Anna Hedgeman wrote in her memoir The Trumpet Sounds: A Memoir of Negro Management, “We is not going to relaxation till there may be justice in our beloved nation, and we all know that as justice involves all People, it should are available rising measure to the remainder of the world.”

Tamieka Atkins is the chief director of ProGeorgia, a nonprofit devoted to strengthening democracy within the state. To be taught extra about our effort to guard Georgians’ voter rights, go to