My March on Washington to the MLK Jr. Memorial Ceremony August 28, 2011

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By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

A month or so ago I received a message on a listserv providing a heads-up about the upcoming dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.  Events are occurring all this week culminating in the ceremony at 11h00 am on August 28, 2011.

Something in my 55 year old soul told me that I had to go.  Maybe it was because back in 1963 in Washington, D.C. I was a little young and I remember my dad being very firm for vague reasons about not wanting us to go outside the house at 501 Upshur Street, N.W. that day.   I don’t know.

What I do know is that today at the bus stop I had a wonderful conversation with a cleaning lady named Kimbra about the state of the United States right now.  We talked with passion about all the craziness we have seen over these months in the way Americans have acted since Obama became President culminating in the surreal debt ceiling debate and the nonsense we hear on the campaign trail.  We wished that President Obama would show to all that he is free.

Maybe John Stewart’s Daily Show presentation last night of the complete craziness of the “penny wise and pound foolish” approach of spending cuts only for programs for the middle class and poor without tax increases for millionaires and billionaires got to me.  Maybe it was all the emphasis on coddling the “job creators” while ignoring the 98 per cent of us who are “demand creators” that got to me.

Again, I am not sure, but at the bus stop I understood that going back to the Mall to see the unveiling of the MLK, Jr. Memorial is a way for me to proclaim I am free.

It is a way to vote with my feet against the heartlessness that seems to be at the heart of our times.  It is to vote with my feet against the cruelty that has become everyday.  It is to vote with my feet against the topsy-turvy version of America being sold on the 24 hour newscycle where firefighters and police are praised for their work and vilified for wanting to protect their collective bargaining rights.  It is to vote with my feet against the version of America where we spend our time worried about the problems of the rich and famous and say nothing about the poor.  It is to vote with my feet against the version of America that tries to appropriate social justice movements for the purposes of reinforcing inequality and injustice.

I was very moved by Rep. Maxine Waters speaking in Detroit recently about how tired people are and how much people are hurting.  I know how people are hurting and have family members who are hurting.  I vote with my feet in support of them.  I think of all the fear in people’s hearts in homes across America about their future and the future of their children and I vote with my feet in support of their hopes and dreams.

I think of those people taking risks in the Arab Spring – of their civil disobedience in the face of guns of repression.  I vote with my feet for them.

I vote with my feet for that deep change – not the sclerotic change that has so frustrated so many of us.  I vote with my feet to show that I am a free man who can reject voter suppression, working class intimidation, and fear mongering and seek brotherhood, peace, and solidarity.

So, walking with my son and his friend, I will do my little March on Washington on August 28, 2011 because something is drawing me from deep in my soul and from far in the past to that Mall, that day, so that I can show in my own way that America is more than what our leaders seem to see, dare to be, or allow free.