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Miami holds a march for justice

Unions, churches team up in honor of King’s March on Washington

D. Kevin McNeir | 8/22/2013, noon
To commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, the A. Philip Randolph Institute [APRI], Miami-Dade Chapter, ...
DEMANDING CHANGE: Among those who marched last weekend in Miami for jobs and justice were State Rep. Cynthia Stafford (l-r), Rev. Carl Johnson, APRI President Lovette McGill, School Board Member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, M-DC Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and UTD President Federick Ingram.

To commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, the A. Philip Randolph Institute [APRI], Miami-Dade Chapter, along with other local unions, elected officials and members of the faith community, held their own “pre-march on Miami” last Sunday morning. About 150 enthusiastic marchers lined up at the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church where the pastor, the Rev. Carl Johnson, reminded those in attendance of the importance of the original March and the significance of its 50th anniversary.

“We’re asking God for favor today and for those who are able to march in our capital next weekend,” he said. “We’re marching today to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who followed him and embraced his dream.”

As some recall, the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. It was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation’s capital with over 250,000 people in attendance, occurring at a time in this country’s history when racial unrest and civil rights demonstrations were at their peak.

As the marchers weaved their way from the church and along a short route throughout Liberty City, they lifted their voices in praise — reminiscent of the freedom songs that were used to encourage civil rights activists during the turbulent 1960s.

“I was 16 when I attended the March,” said Dr. Shirley Johnson, a longtime educator and the second vice-president for the Miami-Dade NAACP. “There was a lot of hatred and bitterness and of course rampant segregation — it was a confusing time for many Americans. We knew it was time to demand changes — that’s why we went to D.C. Then, as now, education is the one thing that helps us all achieve our goals. We need to go back to some of the old, proven ways of protesting. We still need to march for justice.”

Shirley McKenzie, a senior citizen who was born in Ft. Pierce and moved to Miami in 1956, said she hopes that more Blacks will become active in protesting against injustice and demanding their rights.

“When adults don’t lead, then our youth don’t listen,” she said. “Many young people today are not respecting their elders. We have to go back to honoring those who have paved the way for the next generation and Blacks need to start putting God first in our lives.”

Trayon Gaskins, 30, an associate minister at the Church, said he was marching to bring a “sense of urgency to the community.”

“We have to get the church and our communities involved again like they were during the civil rights movement,” he said. “Our ancestors marched in order to bring about change. We, too, can create change when we stand united. And we can’t just seek new ways — some of the old ways are just as effective now as they were in the past.”

“It was all about jobs and freedom then — it’s all about jobs and freedom now,” said State Representative Cynthia Stafford.

“Blacks must support the dream, revitalize the dream and take off the blinders,” said Earnest Tyler, 75.

“We owe a great deal to A. Philip Randolph and the many union members who gave their support to Dr. King,” said Lovette McGill, Miami-Dade APRI president. “I have been fighting for much of my life, sometimes because I am a woman in a male-dominated group. King wanted us all to be treated the same. So, the struggle continues.”