As we approach the end of 2013, all I can think of is "WOW," what a year. In 2013 we celebrated history. We remembered the 150th anniversary of the issuing by President Abraham Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation. We both remembered and recreated the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs, Justice and Freedom. That is the march where Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. 50 years ago gave his memorable speech, "I Have A Dream." We celebrated the lives of civil rights heroes like Medgar Evers, the NAACP Voting Rights Activist, who was assassinated 50 years ago for pursuing the right to vote in the Jim Crow South. We remembered the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy, who push us towards an enlightened future and urged Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
We witnessed the great city of Boston get attacked by an act of terror, and saw when the city lifted itself when its Boston Red Sox won Major League Baseball's World Series. We gave tribute to one of the world's most cherished citizen and leader when the world gathered to pay its last respects to South African President Nelson Mandela. We felt challenged when the United States Supreme Court, in June in deciding Shelby County v. Holder, struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; but were encouraged when that same court issued its ruling in United States v. Windsor, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); and declaring that same sex marriages could not be treated differently under the benefits portion of the Act.
We suffered the news of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Civil War, but were relieved when common sense prevailed and Syria agreed to have its chemical weapons removed by international peace keepers. We were further heartened when the world's Catholics chose a new Pope Francis, who seems to truly believe that the meek shall inherit the earth. We were enraged when a jury deliberated and returned a not guilty verdict against George Zimmerman, a man many believed was, in fact, guilty of killing young black unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. Martin's killing set in motion a mass movement to ensure, at least, a fair and impartial trial for his killing. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties won a victory when a Federal Appeals Court Judge ruled that the manner of New York City's Police tactic of stop and frisk was unconstitutional. Citizens across America began signing up for health insurance for the first time in their lives and while the country scratched its head over the website glitches; the President assured the nation that the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) was the right prescription for the country.
The 2013 holiday season almost turned sour when a number of major retailers were accused of racial profiling and of allowing their customers to be subjected to "shop & frisk" by law enforcement's interactions with the retailers' black and Hispanic customers. To their credit, the retailers sat and meet with civil rights and civil liberties groups and hammered out a Customers' Bill of Rights that declared a zero tolerance for any discriminatory profiling of customers by the major retailers.
During the holiday, I went with my family to see Motown the Musical. It was a fabulous show, and it reminded me how much of a role music played in our movement's struggle for equal treatment under the law. It also got me thinking about 2014. We have lots of challenges ahead and many efforts to ensure the rights of individuals who still suffer from discrimination, unequal pay or lack a living wage when they do work. We will still be fighting for health care equity, seeking to ensure a fair and equitable immigration policy, and working to reduce the violence from the use of illegal handguns. We will be urging the Congress to seek smarter gun policies that will help to protect against the legal purchase of weapons by those who are unfit to own weapons, particularly those that can do great damage as witnessed in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado. There will be major efforts to continue to provide a meaningful and useful education to our children. We will have major battles to fight to ensure that no citizen is deprived of his or her right to vote on the basis of voter ID laws or other tactics used by those who fear voters rather than embrace our democracy.
So, instead of hearing a lot of songs using the "N" word, the "B" word or the "H" word, how about some 2014 songs that sing about "Health Care -- What is it Good For -- Absolutely Everything" or "Congress Got a Brand New Bag." Whatever it may be, one thing is sure, you better be "Gettin' Ready" because we're coming into 2014 on the "Good Foot" of progress. Happy New Year!
Michael A. Hardy, Esq. is General Counsel and Executive Vice-President to National Action Network (NAN). He has been involved in many of this nation's highest profiled cases involving violations of civil or human rights. He continues to supervise National Action Network's crisis unit and hosts a monthly free legal clinic at NAN New York City's House of Justice.