A series of marches and rallies centered around voting rights are slated in the nation’s capital and cities nationwide this weekend. The events on Saturday, August 28 will fall on the 58th anniversary of the historic “March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom” held in 1963.
Decades later, the “March On For Voting Rights” is scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., with companion events in cities that include Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Phoenix.
“It disheartens me to say that as a country and society, we are not even close to where my father hoped we would be since delivering his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech 58 years ago,” said Martin Luther King III, Board Chairman of the Drum Major Institute in a statement. “I think my father would be greatly disappointed in where we are at this particular moment, but he would not give up on the nation. He believed in the power of people, the power of young people, and the power of change to come.”
King is to be joined by his wife, Arndrea Waters King, and daughter, Yolanda Renee King. Joining them will be civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder/president of the National Action Network.
“It’s time for all Americans to come together and join this non-violent, non-partisan movement in the spirit of Dr. King and the values he pushed this nation to uphold,” said Sharpton in a statement. “…There is no democratic right more sacred than the right to vote, and it is under threat across America. We must fight to protect it.”
The demonstration is being organized by the Drum Major Institute, March On, National Action Network, Future Coalition, SEIU, and 51 for 51, in tandem with 140 other partners. Co-hosts Al B. Sure! and activist/radio personality Joe Madison are expected to kick things off at McPherson Square Park in D.C. The route will pass Black Lives Matter Plaza, the White House and the Washington Monument. The closing rally will be set against the backdrop of The National Mall.
Organizers are pushing for Congress to pass federal voting rights protections. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. The bill, introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) last week, aims to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Key voter protections were previously gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision and earlier this year in the Brnovich v. DNC ruling. The bill must now go to the Senate, where the For The People Act, another voting rights measure, has stalled.
The focus on both bills comes as state legislatures nationwide have introduced some 400 measures, more than a dozen of which have become law. While many Republican lawmakers say the legislation is about election integrity, Democrats counter that they are aimed at disenfranchising voters, especially people of color.
Advocates say they’re determined to push for voting rights and equality. The “Make Good Trouble” Rally will take place on Saturday as well. The event name pays homage to the late John Lewis who often urged peaceful protests and “good trouble.”
The rally is a partnership of dozens of progressive organizations. Some of them include: Black Voters Matter, The Gathering for Justice, Until Freedom, Color of Change, National Black Justice Coalition, and People for The American Way. The rally will begin at the Lincoln Memorial and feature speakers and performances.
“We have called our Senators, mobilized our community members, gotten arrested multiple times and now it’s time to show up in numbers on August 28th to remind those in power that we are serious,” said Tamika D. Mallory, co-founder of Until Freedom. “What we know is that Washington, D.C. is the epicenter of power and they can pass legislation that can set the precedent and trump harmful legislation in our home states.”
The Make Good Trouble Rally will focus on voting rights as well as other issues. Among them are the fight for D.C. statehood; ending the filibuster; stemming gun violence; reparations; immigration reform and green solutions to combat climate change.
“While the fight to protect voting rights remains a priority for us, we recognize that there are many factors at play today that impact each other,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter. “The social, economic, and political challenges that we face all intersect and those most gravely impacted are far too often Black people and other communities of color. But as we know through our work, there is power in solidarity. It is in that spirit that we come together to rally around these issues, because no one will fight for our people like we will.”