Today is the 52nd Anniversary of the 1963 August 28th March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom. In a blog on August 22nd, 2015, I wrote:
"Much of my memories of that day are more fully described in BEHIND THE DREAM-The Making of The Speech That Transformed A Nation, co-authored with Stuart Connelly. What I remember most today, however, is the CONTRAST, then, between the prominent role played by leaders of religious organizations and labor unions at the March On Washington. Except for Rev. William Barbar's "Moral Monday" leadership in NC, there appears to be a less prominent or non-existent civil rights leadership role-played by Churches and religious leaders today. Why is this?"
Aside from the role of religious, civic and community leaders today in response to current major issues, which we will discuss below, the contrast between the 275,000 persons who assembled at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial on that Wednesday afternoon 52 years ago can be best described by suggesting different words that might be used today on their organizing banner:
"MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR JOBS, INCOME EQUALITY and ENDING GUN VIOLENCE"
Some presidential candidates in both the Republican and Democratic party primaries are beginning to talk about income inequality. Few are talking about ending gun violence.
Sadly, no one seems to be elevating to the national conscience the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Syria. That is why, in some of my tweets about "Black Lives Matter" I also tweet that "Syrian Lives Matter" to remind all of us about the magnitude of pain and suffering occurring in that war torn country.
In addition to the leadership role of Reverend William Barbar in NC mentioned above, there are other examples of innovative leadership taking place across our nation commemorating the legacy of the original March on Washington. One such example is "Spill The Honey Project" under the leadership of Dr. Shari Rogers in Michigan.
The Project is committed to advancing public knowledge of the Holocaust and promoting the prevention of genocide. Through its own programs, sponsored initiatives and strategic partnerships, Spill the Honey promotes tolerance of cultural differences, focuses public attention on present day injustice and encourages young people to become global citizens.
The project gets it name from the memories of Eliezer Ayalon, a victim of the Holocaust. When his ghetto was being evacuated and his mother sent him away so he'd survive, she gave him a cup of honey, a symbol of the sweet life she knew he was destined to lead. This gesture signified light and hopes in the darkest place of their history. Eliezer did not merely accept the cup, but spent his adult life pouring into it, "so that it may spill over into the lives of others."
Dr. Rogers not only takes her inspiration from the mother of Eliezer Avalon, but from the words of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress. The AJC was one of the founding organizers of the August 1963 March of Washington. As described in my earlier blog in this space, Rabbi Prinz spoke immediately before Dr. King 's "I Have A Dream" speech. Some of what Rabbi Prinz said I will recite again on this anniversary date of the March On Washington:
"When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not '.the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence. (Emphasis added)
America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America, but all of America. (Emphasis added)
The Spill Honey Project, like Reverend Barbar, in NC, seeks to rebuild the alliances and coalition between the African-American and the white community, especially among religious and Jewish community organizations that constituted the heart of the organizing for the original March On Washington.
On this 52nd Anniversary of the March we should all give special tribute to Dr. Shari Rogers' "Spill The Honey Project" efforts and to Rev. Barbara's "Moral Majority" Movement in NC. They both reflect the heart and soul of the 1963 March On Washington, Dr. King's strategic moral leadership and his "Dream" for our country.
If not now when?
If not us, whom?