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Leaders: We won't let conservatives hijack King legacy

By Pharoh Martin NNPA National Correspondent | Last updated: Jun 29, 2010 - 11:10:23 PM

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Photos: Richard B. Muhammad/The Final Call

Marc Morial, National Urban League, left, and NAACP leader Ben Jealous are supporting an Aug. 28 march to counter conservative Glenn Beck's rally on the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington by Dr. Martin Luther King. The White right is trying to distort the King legacy and justify actions and policies the civil rights leader opposed, they said. Photos: Richard B. Muhammad/The Final Call
NEW YORK (NNPA) - Black civil rights leaders are furious that they will not be able to organize a march to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King's famed “I Have A Dream” speech at the location where it happened this year because infamous right wing Fox News personality and radio host Glenn Beck already booked the Lincoln Memorial to hold his own rally.

“We're going to get together because we are not going to let Glenn Beck own the symbolism of Aug. 28, 2010,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said June 18 during a National Newspaper Publishers Association breakfast at NNPA's 70th Anniversary Celebration at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers. “Someone said to me, ‘Maybe we shouldn't challenge him. Maybe we should just let him have it.' I was like, ‘Brother, where have you been? Where is your courage? Where is your sense of outrage?' We need to collaborate and bring together all people of good will, not just Black people, on Aug. 28 to send a message that Glenn Beck's vision of America is not our vision of America.”

As both a solution and response to what the leaders condemn as an attack on the legacy of King, NAACP President Ben Jealous announced at the conference that a national march for jobs and justice will be held on Oct. 2 instead.

“A group of White males wealthier than their peers called the Tea Party has risen up in the land,” said Mr. Jealous June 18. “They say that they want to take the country back. And take it back they surely will. They will take it back to 1963 if we let them.”

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, the country's largest federation of labor unions, recently announced its support for a jobs march Mr. Jealous will be co-leading in Washington on Oct. 2.

Other national civil rights leaders and organizations are endorsing the Oct. jobs march as a follow up tothe Aug. 28 protest against Mr. Beck.

“We will be fighting Glenn Beck on Aug. 28 and we will be using that to leverage the second march,” Mr. Jealous said. “That march has to happen. Our people are dying right now, literally, from lack of access to jobs.”

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton said the Black Press has always been in the forefront of defining the Black struggle. Even with a Black president, the Black-owned newspapers have a vital role to play, he said. White-owned media decides who is acceptable and controversial in Black leadership, and anyone who fights today's urban and corporate racism is seen as a problem, he said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, who also spoke at the NNPA Convention, said Mr. Beck will distort Dr. King's legacy and his message.

“On the anniversary of the March on Washington, Glenn Beck is going to talk about the dream of Martin Luther King and how he was with them—not us. So, we've been traveling all over this country because there is no way in the world that I am going to allow him to have more people there than us. I hope every Black person in the country will help us to challenge this. Everybody's got to be in Washington. We can't let them highjack Dr. King's dream.”

Mr. Morial called Mr. Beck's right wing conservative vision “intolerant.”

“His vision is of an America of the past,” Mr. Morial said. “Our vision is of an America that understands its past but is of the future. Too many times we have become spectators. Some people thought that since Mr. Obama became president that they could go back to their couch to sit down and watch.

“Look at what have we witnessed—the resurgent voice of extremism. The 14th amendment has been incorrectly interpreted. They are talking in code talking about that ‘we have to save our country.' This is our country too.”

Bernice King, president-elect of SCLC and daughter of the slain civil rights leader, talks with NNPA chair Danny Bakewell following her address to Black publishers in New York.
Mr. Morial added, “One of the things that is so curious to me is the way that groups on the right have been very, very observant and have begun to utilize the tactics of the civil rights movement- marching, organizing in churches, things that were the backbone of civil rights advocacy in the 1950s and 1960s. Others have begun to use those techniques and use those tactics. It would be a mistake if we would treat it and didn't recognize that the people in our communities and people across the nation who believe as we do that the future of this nation has to be inclusivein a multi-racial fashion so that African-Americans are involved in the major things that take place in this country.”

Upon the 70th anniversary of NNPA and the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Urban League, Mr. Morial also spoke about the need to craft a new Black agenda in a “time of great contradictions,” referencing the 2000 presidential election that was decided by a 5-4 Supreme Court vote in favor of George W. Bush, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economic recession that is one of the worst in U.S. history and very recently, an unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But he then compared the challenges with the ascension of Black men as president of the United States, as the head of the Department of Justice, and as chief executives of some of the country's most powerful corporations such as Merrill Lynch, Xerox and American Express.

“Along the continuum of history, no one would have suggested or predicted that any of the above would occur in just a 10-year period,” Mr. Morial said. “These are times when the history books are being written and re-written. In 1999, Black America had a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, the lowest rate in the 50 years since this kind of data has been recorded. And now, 10-years plus later, our unemployment rate is twice as high and the real rate is even higher. Against this backdrop of difficult and tough times, that we have also witnessed, African-Americans achieve the highest places in American life. These are the times that you and I, as community and civic leaders, are bound to address the challenges.”

He called for a new period of Black activism. He called it “intelligent activism,” and described it as changing the conversation by “not raising hollow, holy” hell but, rather, making a pointed case with common sense facts and arguments.

“We have to be driven by our objective,” Mr. Morial said. “Dr. King, Thurmond Marshall and all of the great leaders of the 1960s had an objective, which was to end segregation in American life. And they achieved that objective as a matter of law. Our objective needs to be to end disparities in American life to achieve economic parity in the 21st century.”

Mr. Morial said Black Americans, because of their population size, are a force to be reckoned with. There are an estimated 40 million Black people that account for $800 billion in spending in the U.S., Mr. Morial said. There are also 10,000 Black elected officials holding local, state and national offices.

“We are a community that has assets and power as much as we want to organize it and use it,” Mr. Morial said. “I want us to think of ourselves as a community of assets that brings something to the economic table of America, not as a community of deficits and problems, so that we are not coming looking with a handout. We are looking as an investor in the American dream.”