by Alex Michel (she/her/hers)
UCLA MSW Intern
Unity means supporting each other and uplifting each other. It means standing up, side by side, continuing the fight for justice and equity for all. It means working towards transforming the systems that continue to oppress many of us, and those that may not appear to impact us directly.
August 28th, 2020 marked the 57th anniversary of the historical ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom’. It was commemorated with the ‘Get Your Knee Off Our Necks Commitment March on Washington’ organized by Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in collaboration with Martin Luther King III. The March was a response to the ongoing murder of Black people at the hands of law enforcement and a direct demand for racial justice. The lives of those taken by police brutality were honored by the presence of various family members whom addressed the crowd demanding racial equity and the end to police violence against Black and Brown people. The March represented a recommitment by the masses to The Dream Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of fifty-seven years ago. It was a recommitment to the work that Civil Rights activists and revolutionaries and their predecessors fought and often lost their lives for. A recommitment to the fight for social, racial, and economic equity and justice as well as the demand to end violence and oppression against Black people and all people of color. A resounding message amplified by the event was: the current civil unrest happening across the country is not simply a moment but rather a movement that will continue until racial equity and justice are achieved.
I had the honor and privilege to attend the March alongside comrades and fellow organizers from Orange County, CA. To say the event was of magnanimous significance is an understatement. There was an undeniable energy generated by the painful recognition of the harm and injustice that has been perpetrated by the racism and white supremacy this country was built upon, coupled with the collective acknowledgment of the power that our unity in demanding justice can create. The diversity of those in attendance was inspiring, reminding us that we are stronger together. Despite the current pandemic, and with appropriate precautions, thousands of people from all corners of the country made their way to Washington D.C to express their personal commitment to The Dream. A sense of unity and radical love radiated throughout.
It is imperative, however, that we continue to do the work necessary for achieving The Dream. Marching and protesting are important forms of civic engagement yet must continue to expand our political involvement. It will require that we not only vote but that we hold our elected officials accountable and that we demand tangible changes to the current policies and legislation that continue to oppress BIPOC communities. It has become clear that reform is not the solution – true equity and justice will require radical change. We must aim for the complete dismantling and reinvention of the systems that currently govern our society. A good start is the abolition of police, replaced by community-led public safety models. Such changes, however, will require a cultural shift, one where racism and white supremacy no longer reign. In order to accomplish that we must be willing to hold ourselves and each other accountable as well. It will require a lot of unlearning and relearning with an emphasis on radical political education. It will at times be uncomfortable and painful, but it is absolutely necessary. We cannot let another fifty-seven years pass us by.
During his address, Reverend Al Sharpton stated, “you might have killed the dreamer, but you can’t kill The Dream”. United we must continue to push for the realization of that Dream.
Thousands gathered around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C. on August 28, 2020 for the ‘Get Your Knee Off Our Necks Commitment March on Washington’.
Alex Michel. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington D.C.
Founding members of Orange County Protests’ Community Coalition (from left to right: Alex Michel, Zoe Wianecki, Tatiahna Chrishon, Alesia Robinson, Sarah Sulewski) in front of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Washington D.C during the ‘Get Your Knee Off Our Necks Commitment March on Washington’.
Marchers en route to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington D.C during ‘Get Your Knee Off Our Necks Commitment March on Washington’.