As America marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, there is one fact that cannot be disputed—there has been progress in the last five decades.
But where the debate lies is has the progress been adequate?
On one hand, there is an African American running the nation; something unimaginable 400 years ago, Blacks in the country were considered only three-fifths of a human. There are thousands of Black folks leading city, county and state governments; and segregation and discrimination are no longer the law of the land.
On the other hand, some activists note that unemployment among Blacks is worst today than in 1963 (12.6 vs. 10.9 percent); the incarceration rate of Black men is off the chart—according to The Sentencing Project, almost one in three (32.2 percent) young Black men in the age group 20-29 is under criminal justice supervision on any given day—in prison or jail, on probation or parole.
Additionally, many of the gains made during the civil rights era are being slowly and insidiously sliced away.
Consequently, the celebrations are also serving as a reminder for people to stop and take a look at just how much progress has been made and is yet to be made.
During the one of the major commemorations held Saturday in Washington, D.C., Rev. K.W. Tulloss, pastor of L.A.’s historic Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church said he was humbled to be invited to be one of 60 speakers participating in a commemoration that retraced the steps of the 1963 march.
“It was surreal to stand before people and look at the Lincoln Monument seeing thousands of people there committed and ready to fight on. Thousands of busses pulling into the stadium, and people walking to the park; watching the monument fill up,” added the pastor, who described the day as warm, sunny and filled with electricity.
Tulloss said he also thought about standing in the same place as a young Southern minister who went on to make what would go down as a historic address; the two were also nearly the same age—King was 34 years old on that August day; Tulloss today is 35.)
“I was honored to be invited to be on the same program with all these legends,” added Tulloss, who joined speakers such as Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., the last living 1963 speaker; Rev. Jesse Jackson; Julian Bond, and the Rev. Joseph Lowery.
In his two-minute speech, Tulloss addressed the blessings and the blows that African Americans face today. “The blows when it comes to violence like the Trayvon Martin murder; the Voter Rights Act being stripped down; and immigration. The blows of African Americans being the last hired and the first fired, and unemployment numbers that are so dismal.”
Photo captures the faces of the 1963 March on Washington at the National Mall.
Leonard Freed is best known for his image of Martin Luther King Jr. after King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
The 1963 Marchers on Washington were entertained by big names such as Ossie Davis, Joan Baez, Bobby Darin, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Jackie Robinson.
People holding hands during the 1963 March on Washington.
Protestors holding signs during the 1963 March on Washington.
The large crowd of people wait and watch for speakers.
Though the name "March on Washington" is well known, the full title of the 1963 gathering was called the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."
Though the most iconic shot from the 1963 March on Washington may be of Martin Luther King Jr. waving to the crowd, photographer Leonard Freed moved throughout the crowd finding the faces that weren't seen in the papers.
A group of people singing together during the 1963 March on Washington.
August 28, 1963, was one of the most important days for the civil rights movement. Over 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
August 28, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington.
The blessings, said Tulloss, include still being here, still standing united today and committed to organizing and mobilizing the community for change.
What particularly pleased Tulloss about participating in the D.C. commemoration was the fact that an agenda was set.