Aug. 28, 2023, marked the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On Aug. 28, 1963, thousands gathered to lift their voices for justice. They envisioned a society where the rights of people were protected no matter the color of their skin and where everyone could reach their full potential.
History of the March on Washington
The march was organized by civil rights organizations and labor unions which include: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Urban League, National Council of Churches, and United Auto Workers. In all, 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial.
The lead organizer, A. Philip Randolph, gave the opening speech. In his deep baritone voice with a melodic manner, he shared his dream for the future. He envisioned an end to racial segregation and discrimination. All children would have access to quality education. Job seekers would find gainful and viable employment opportunities in order to provide for their families and build strong communities. He was committed to building a democracy without barriers to accessing the ballot box.
A young activist, John Lewis who later became a member of Congress, described a future without the threat of police and state-sanctioned violence. He challenged the United States to wake up to the challenges of racial injustice and create change with the urgency of now.
Mahalia Jackson sang the spirituals “How I Got Over” and “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned” which reflected the unwavering tenacity and courage of the Black community.
During Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, Mahalia reminded him to tell the crowd about his dream. What emerged was his preeminent “I Have a Dream” speech where he shared a vision of justice, freedom, and equity.
The March on Washington had a lasting impact on policy changes. It led to the passage of the 24th Amendment. This law ended poll taxes and any restrictions on voting. It laid a foundation for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It challenged segregation in public spaces like schools, transportation, and restaurants. It outlawed employment discrimination and created access to new job opportunities.
Legacy of Hope
The dream shared during the March on Washington has still not been fully realized yet. The mission of Planting People Growing Justice is to build upon this legacy of hope. We believe hope is an action verb. We ignite change by teaching our youth about history, introducing them to the leadership legacy of heroes and sheroes (like the organizers of the March on Washington), and inspiring our youth to make a difference in the world.
Our annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. writing contest (sponsored by the Minnesota Twins) introduces youth to King’s dream and challenges them to take action and make this dream a living reality. Our team traveled to classrooms and youth groups across the Twin Cities Metro to teach about Dr. King’s leadership through two notable speeches: “I Have a Dream” and “Drum Major Instinct.” Most children are familiar with “I Have a Dream,” while few have heard of “Drum Major Instinct.” The two have a natural synergy. It starts with the dream of what the United States can become. According to King: “There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied!’ ... We are not satisfied, and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
The Drum Major Instinct enlists everyone as a key collaborator and leader in making this dream a reality. “If you want to be important – wonderful. If you want to be recognized – wonderful. If you want to be great – wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. [By] giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve,” said King.
We are honored to recognize the youth who wrote about this legacy of hope and how to live a life of purpose by becoming a drum major for justice. Congratulations to our PPGJ 2023 Dr. King writing competition winners: Celicia Young, Deborah Adedigba, and Soliana Ruva Emmanuel. They reflected on what it means to be a drum major for justice. Their message challenges us to embrace the values of courage, hope, unity, and love and to serve and lead in our communities.
With the support of our partnership with the Minnesota Twins, these young scholars were recognized at a Twins game and threw the ceremonial first pitch. They will also become published authors in our second edition of Aya Youth Anthology.
Write for Justice
Our Write for Justice program seeks to increase literacy while developing cultural awareness and leadership. Each writing opportunity inspires our youth to lead change by lifting their voices for justice.
Share your story and win a cash prize and become a published author. We currently have six writing competitions available. You can find them listed on our website at Share your Story (www.ppgjli.org)
For those under 25: Aya: An Anthology of Racial Justice, Healing, and the Black Experience; Food Justice. For those in 3rd-12th grade: Financial Independence; STEM. For those of all ages: Rondo History & Values; Minnesota Black History
You are welcome to submit to as many of them as you like.
Through her organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Dr. Artika Tyner seeks to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach.