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'Get on the bus' for jobs, youth and pride

Fifty years later we're still marching for civil and voting rights

D. Kevin McNeir | 8/7/2013, 11:13 a.m.
Florida may be a long ride from our nation’s Capitol, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred a committed group ...
Martin Luther King, Jr. and others marching for jobs and justice. Robert Kelley

Florida may be a long ride from our nation’s Capitol, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred a committed group of mostly faith-based congregations located in the State that are now making plans to join colleagues from 60 chapters and 150 cities scattered across the U.S. on their way to the 2013 March on Washington.

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Rev. Michael McBride

The March, which will make the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech and pay tribute to the original 1963 March, takes place on Saturday, Aug. 24. The bus tour from Miami to Washington, D.C., is being spearheaded by People Improving Communities through Organizing [PICO] a national network of faith-based community organizations founded in 1972 to create innovative solutions to problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities. Since their founding by a Catholic priest, Fr. John Baumann, PICO has successfully worked to increase access to health care, improve public schools, make neighborhoods safer and build affordable housing.

Last Tuesday, they discussed their plans for their Lifelines National Bus Tour, that will take place the week leading up to the Aug 24th gathering in D.C. Starting Tuesday, Aug. 20, passengers will get on the bus in Miami, followed by Orlando, Tallahassee, Durham and Atlanta, before touching down in D.C. The state director for the Florida Lifelines to Healing Campaign, Desmond Meade, 46, says those who board the bus will have “powerful stories that often tend to be ignored.”

“We’ll be meeting at Greater Bethel AME Church in Overtown [pastor, Rev. Eddie Lake] for a press conference, training session and worship service before we head off to D.C.,” Meade said.

Marching to make people ‘visible’

“Those who get on the bus at each stop have been disenfranchised, are victims of incarceration, are making minimum wage and barely able to make ends meet or have lost one or more loved ones to gun violence,” Meade said. “We are assembling a group of people of color that this nation refuses to give value to. We want this country to hear us and hear these moving testimonies. After all, everyone deserves respect — it shouldn’t matter if one is rich or poor or Black, white or brown.

Meade, who also serves as the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, says policy makers in the U.S. often make decisions as if “some citizens were invisible.”

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Desmond Meade

“Ralph Ellison referred to how those in power tend to ignore entire portions of society,” he said. “When policy makers act as if we [people of color] don’t exist, they endorse policies that have a negative impact on our lives. We are marching to Washington to make our people visible again.”

The Rev. Michael McBride, 37, senior past or of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, California, serves as the national director for PICO’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign. He says the bus tour is intended to change the minds and hearts of America’s leaders.

“This tour is just one of four national campaigns that we have undertaken but they all start at the local level in various states,” McBride said. “The recent Zimmerman verdict not only impacted people in Florida but caused outrage and unrest across the U.S. If we don’t address the mass incarceration of youth, the wave of gun violence that is killing far too many young adults, or the lack of jobs available to young people, we are in danger of losing an entire generation. We’re calling for a conversation on race and justice and we hope to build racial solidarity and regain the dignity that all people — even, if not especially, those of black and brown skin deserve.”

For more information go to www.lifelinestohealing.org/events.