Martin Luther King III says that it is critical that the upcoming 50th anniversary March on Washington be much more than a time of nostalgia and that it stands for forward-looking progress.
“This is not a commemorative march,” King said, in an interview with BET.com. “That is a very, very small part of what this about. It’s really the continuation of movement activity. Over the last two months, we have seen the Voting Rights Act gutted and a decision as it related to Trayvon Martin that many felt was not a just decision.”
King, the son of the legendary civil rights icon, is one of the key figures in Saturday’s march that comes 50 years after the landmark protest assembly best remembered for his father’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
At 55, King describes himself as a human rights activist. A onetime head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the King Center in Atlanta, he is one of the featured speakers at the march, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network.
King said that it is critical for this year’s event to focus on the need for Congress to enact new voting rights legislation following the decision by the United States Supreme Court earlier this year to strike down key provisions in the Voting Rights Act.
“Some people would have assumed that, because you had a Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and fair housing legislation, that civil rights was done,” King said. “I think this shows that there is still tremendous work that still has to be done. We have to go back to Congress and petition it to get a new Voting Rights Act, an act that makes sure that everyone has the right to vote.”
King has strong feelings about how his father might view the current condition facing African-Americans.
“I think dad would really have mixed emotions,” King said. “He certainly would be proud of the fact that we have elected an African-American president, he said, referring to President Obama. "But he also would probably be very concerned about some of the activities that this administration felt it had to engage in."
Specifically, King said, his father would very likely have disapproved of the Obama administration’s use of drones. “He would also be concerned about the fact that there are incredibly high unemployment rates in communities of color,” King added.
“He’d be concerned about the fact that so many young people are going to prison. He’d be concerned about the tremendous amount of violence in our society, whether it’s a Newtown or a Chicago or any urban city where a young person is killed almost daily.”
On the other hand, King said his father would likely be pleased to see so many Black Americans in such a wide array of elective offices and in the highest positions in corporate America.
“But more than anything, I know he would encourage us to make more progress. He always was positive. So, even though I think he would be greatly disappointed as to where we as a nation are, he would always find a way to leave us with hope.”
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(Photo: Dana Nalbandian/Getty Images for Free The Children)
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