'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, August 24th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
August 24, 2013
Guests: Barbara Arnwine, Jelani Cobb, Taylor Branch, Wade Henderson
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: We do not want our freedom
gradually, but we want to be free now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom now! Here and now!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We expect the passage of an effective civil rights
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to move together. We`re going to grow
together. And that`s the - freedom, freedom, freedom! Freedom now!
KING: Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: We march to redress old grievances and
to help resolve an American crisis. That crisis is born of the twin evils
of racism and economic deprivation. We march to demonstrate massively and
dramatically our unalterable opposition to these forces and to their
century-long robbery of the American people. Our bodies will bear witness
that jobs and freedom are needed now. Those were the words used 50 years
ago to explain why we march on August 28th, 1963, when more than 200,000
Americans demonstrated at the time for change had come. 50 years later,
the voices that will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial have
changed, but the reasons to march remain the same.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, live from the National Mall in
Washington, D.C., where events are already underway for the 50th
anniversary march on Washington. Thousands of people are gathered here
already, with more continuing to stream in. Among those scheduled to speak
today are Martin Luther King III, Myrlie Evers Williams, the Reverend Al
Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Congressman John Lewis. The
only person to speak at the original march who is still alive today. Here
he is in 1963.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LEWIS: By the forces of our demand, our determination, and our
numbers, we shall splinter the segregated south into a thousand pieces and
put them together in the image of God and democracy. We must say, wake up,
America! Wake up! For we cannot stop and we will not and cannot be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On that day, 50 years ago, 250,000 people gathered here to
demand the rights of full citizens. They demanded comprehensive civil
rights legislation, school desegregation, full employment, living wages,
and the aggressive use of federal authority to ensure economic political
and social justice. 50 years later, we have made progress, but the
struggle continues for those same demands. We will bring you the live
coverage of the events here on the mall throughout the day, right here on
MSNBC. And as we get things started this hour, I am thrilled to be joined
this morning by Joy Reid, MSNBC contributor and managing editor of
TheGrio.com. She also leads Nerdland whenever I`m on vacation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Also, Julian Bond, NAACP chairman emeritus. He`s been an
activist in the civil rights economic justice and peace movement for more
than five decades. And next to him, the Reverend William Barber, head of
the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and leader of one of today`s most
important social movements for justice, the ongoing moral Mondays protest
in North Carolina. Thank you all for being here.
JULIAN BOND, NAACP CHAIRMAN EMERITUS: My pleasure.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, HEAD OF NAACP`S NORTH CAROLINA CHAPTER: Thanks so
JOY REID, MSNBC: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Bond, I want to begin with you. As you think about
where we have been, over the course of the past 50 years, how would you
BOND: Well, if you look at the 50 years, the real measure of progress was
the civil rights act of 1964. That`s the legacy of that march. And that
opened the door for black Americans and people of color to go places and
work in places, go to places they hadn`t been able to go before. Some of
the other legacies are not as strong. The Supreme Court`s revision of the
Voting Rights Act, (inaudible) the Voting Rights Act is a bad mark on them.
It meant that Justice Roberts had a dream that he followed since he was
working for Ronald Reagan.
BOND: He wanted to get rid of Voting Rights Act and now was is in a
position to do it. So, we`re - it`s sort of a mixed picture. Yes, no - we
are ahead, we`re behind. It`s a terrible thing to concentrate, but the
thing that happened 50 years ago is people left here, determined to make a
change, and people, I hope, are going to leave here today determined to
make a change.
HARRIS-PERRY: But that story of some forward progress followed by some
retraction is part of the story. I think, you know, we tell it in our
elementary schoolbooks as though it`s a steady march always towards justice
HARRIS-PERRY: . but I think it`s helpful to remember that there`s always
BOND: It`s back and forth, back and forth. Yeah, it always is. That`s
the way life is, unfortunately. But typical movement has been forward.
BOND: We`ve gone forward, forward, forward. We`ve won things. We have a
black president, we have a black attorney general. If you would have told
me 50 years we`d have those, I`d say you were crazy.
BOND: If you had told me a year before it happened, I would say you`re
crazy. But it happened.
BOND: And it shows we`re a changing country. But we haven`t changed
enough and there`s much more work to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Rev. Barber, let me ask you about this question of the more
work that we have to do. You have been gathering an interracial coalition
of activists every single Monday in North Carolina, at the statehouse. And
now y`all have kind of taken it on the road in North Carolina. Talk to me
about whether or not we should still believe that mass movements can have
the kind of power that they did to affect policy 50 years ago.
BARBER: You know, Melissa, a part of our challenge is today in the
movement, is to hold on to what we won and to push forward towards what is
yet to be won. You know, we`re still toward a more perfect union. And I
think mass movements alone can do it, but if they`re fusion politics, it is
(inaudible) build a broad coalition. If you create space by using language
like moral versus immoral, extremist versus constitutional, don`t get
limited into liberal versus conservative, Republican versus Democrat. That
was brilliance of Dr. King and then you attach that movement to a legal
stretch, and you attack that movement to voter registration strategy and a
voter education strategy, and you don`t -- you know, you don`t work at
trying to see who you can keep out. You actually keep, you know, Julian
Bond and William Bond together. I wasn`t even born in 1963. I was in my
mother`s womb. I was born in August 30 1963. But the value is, when he
and I can consult and learn the wisdom of the past, bring the nuances of
the present, and have what we call in North Carolina a values coalition,
not around personality, but around deep moral values, deep constitution
values, and fusion movement. We went to Mitchell County, North Carolina.
99 percent white, 89 percent Republican and took the dream. The game
change with NAACP .
BARBER: The Republican chairman - chair has voted to (inaudible) Moral
Monday. 10,000 people in Asheville, in a city that`s five percent black.
That`s the power when we build coalition.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to - I want to go a little bit further on that.
In part because sometimes coalition also means doing relatively temporal
HARRIS-PERRY: . with people, with whom you have other kinds of deep
BARBER: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet you can say, all right, we may not agree on who we
will vote for, once we get into the polling place, but we can agree that
everyone should have unfettered access .
BARBER: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: . to that polling place.
BARBER: When we went into Mitchell County, we said to them, listen. When
this governor in North Carolina cuts unemployment, unemployment in Mitchell
County, though it`s 89 percent Republican, was 15 percent. When he cut
education, the major jobs up there a public school teaching. And when this
governor goes against the environment, you don`t touch the mountain
people`s environment. When you hurt the vote, you undermine my -- and what
they ended up saying was, there`s not a lot different between mountain
populism and civil rights activism, if you sit down and have a
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that language. If you don`t touch mountain people`s
HARRIS-PERRY: And Joy, let me ask you a little bit about that. Because
part of the challenge that this movement represented by this 50th
commemoration is, is that this is going to - this is not just about race .
HARRIS-PERRY: This is not even primarily about civil rights .
HARRIS-PERRY: . this is about LGBT questions, immigration, environment.
That seems like a tougher coalition of people to hold together.
REID: Yeah, it`s difficult. Because you`re trying to sort of build this
multi-faceted view of what civil rights mean, when I think in the minds of
many Americans, civil rights means what it meant 50 years ago. It meant an
African-American question. And I think it`s been a challenge and Rev.
Barber, I`m sure I was (inaudible) full well within a church, of even
sometimes getting the civil rights establishment to accept the extension of
the need for civil rights into an LGBT community.
REID: So you have a challenge, because some of these coalitions are sort
of fractured, and they each have their own needs and their own priorities.
So getting everyone on to the same page, but I think that`s one of the
reasons the fight against it is so tough, and the fight against it is so
fierce, because I think there`s always been an understanding if you marry
economic populism and you marry racial justice, social justice and it
transcends race, that`s a coalition that`s a lot bigger and a lot more
difficult to keep out of a voting booth.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s part of what I want to talk about when we come
back. Is that this was always a march for jobs and freedom.
HARRIS-PERRY: There was always a labor aspect to this. So, in fact, even
our memory of this .
HARRIS-PERRY: . is not completely accurate when we think about the
coalition. Speakers are already at the podium, as you can see and probably
hear behind me. We are going to bring you many of the voices live today.
Now, for those of you joining us from home this morning, we want you to
know that we want to know about what you are doing, even if you are not
hear. How are you advancing the dream? We don`t just want you to tell us,
we want you to show us, too. Head to advancingthedream.com, msncbc.com,
advancingthedream.msnbc.com to share what you are doing to help further to
Dr. King`s dream. Use the hashtag "advancing the dream" and tweet a
picture that explains how you`re going to help in moving forward. We`re
going to be right back with more of our special coverage of the 50th
anniversary of the march on Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I have a dream.
KING: My four little children will one day live in a nation where they
will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their
character. I have a dream today!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Back with me here, just a short distance from the steps of
the Lincoln Memorial, Julian Bond, Rev. William Barber, and MSNBC`s Joy
Reid. I want to start with you again, Mr. Bond. In that quote that I
think has become the iconic one about "My four little children being judged
by the content of their character." But, of course, what we know
historically, within a month of this historic march, four little children
lost their lives in the church in Birmingham. And Reverend King had talked
about the idea of redemptive suffering before that. I want to listen for a
moment to Dr. King talking about redemptive suffering and ask you about
that. So let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I go on with the feeling that this is a righteous cause and that we
will have to suffer in this cause and that a physical death is the price
that some must pay. As it`s the price that I must pay to free my children
and the children of my brothers and sisters and my white brothers from a
permanent psychological death, then nothing can be more redemptive. I have
always believed that unearned suffering is redemptive. And if a man has
not discovered something so dear and so precious that he will die for it,
then he doesn`t have much to live for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So that`s just two months before the march.
BOND: It`s hard to get your mind around that, if you haven`t found
something to die for, then you have nothing to live for. And most of us
are going to say, I don`t have anything I want to die for. But if you
think about the people in the movement, they had made this commitment.
They had said to themselves, I`m willing to die, I`m willing to be
arrested, I`m willing to be beaten, I`m willing to go to jail, I`m willing
to do all this suffering because I`m advancing a larger, greater cause.
And everybody - not everybody, everybody in the movement believed that and
I think many people listening to this believed that too. It`s a noble
HARRIS-PERRY: And not just themselves, which is one thing, but their
HARRIS-PERRY: And the fact that just moments before this great, 50 years
ago march, was the Birmingham children`s campaign. That crusade that`s
changed the moral complexion of our nation.
BOND: Yes, and the parents in Birmingham didn`t want their children to do
this. In fact, they told their children not to do it .
HARRIS-PERRY: . and the children did it anyways.
BOND: . did anyway. And if you talk to those children today, they`ll tell
you about the fights they had with their parents and how they snuck out,
how they jumped out the backdoor of the school, how they did everything
they could so adults wouldn`t stop them. But once the adults saw them
doing it, the adults were tremendously proud of their - my father and
mother didn`t want me to get arrested and they were horrified when I was,
but I think they thought, you know, what a wonderful thing to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: I guess as we are thinking about where we are 50 years
later, one of the questions, then, that I have is, so what motivates us in
that way that Dr. King talked about it there? What are the things that
have that level of a sense of urgency for Americans, regardless of race at
REID: Yeah, I mean, now it`s difficult, because I think a lot of
particularly younger people, African-Americans, were really galvanized
around the redemptive suffering that a lot of people feel for Trayvon
REID: . and this sense of feeling -- and I think that is the closest that
modern Americans can come to feeling what it was like to literally feel
like a stranger in your own country. Not able to walk into a restaurant
and sit down, you know suspected of being a criminal. I think that a lot
of younger African Americans .
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for just one moment. MSNBC`s Ed Schultz is actually
addressing the crowd right now. We`re going to take a moment and listen to
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: Not for America, but it was the future. I take you to
Birmingham, Alabama, last night, where I did a radio town hall and I can
tell you what`s happening in America right now. The dream can only be
realized if we pay attention to what`s going on in our own backyard. When
we start picking and choosing neighborhoods, who`s going to get the
resources and who`s not going to get the resources, we will lose this
country, we will lose the vision of diversity, we will lose the opportunity
of equality to move all people forward. You need to pay attention to
what`s happening in your backyard, to make sure that your school and those
young kids get the resources they need to have an opportunity in America
that will help them grow. Being a product of the middle class, I was the
one who was afforded the opportunities. And if we start picking and
choosing neighborhoods, what kind of message are we sending to the youth of
America? That this is a vision that they`re going to have? That this is
what it`s supposed to be for them? No! That`s not what Dr. King`s message
was, that`s not what America`s focus is, and that cannot be the road to the
future for America. Stand tall in your community, fight for diversity,
understand its strength, and make sure that every school is resourced to
give every American child a chance to live the dream. God bless you!
HARRIS-PERRY: That was MSNBC`s Ed Schultz, speaking there. MSNBC`s Ed
Schultz, speaking there, in part about the importance of diversity in
Rev. Barber, it makes me think about the fact that the attack on civil
rights, voting rights, all of those questions in North Carolina began first
with an attack on the integration of schools in Wake County in North
BARBER: Exactly. And part of what we have to do, Melissa, is destroy this
myth of the ultra-conservative extremist, that they can hurt some without
hurting all of us. The fact of the matter is, we connect the dots and we
show that an attack on Medicaid or an attack on public education or an
attack on the working poor or an attack on voting rights is an attack on
all of us. And then we frame all those things as moral. But some moral
BARBER: Health care`s a moral issue. The education is a moral issue. And
then we say to folks, what we need is an anti-racial, anti-poverty, pro-
justice, (inaudible) the constitutional movement. And doing that
(inaudible). Go back to Mississippi .
BARBER: . go back to North Carolina. Come here, but don`t stay here.
That`s right. If you`re going to change the nation, you`ve got to think
states. That`s, in fact - and just as - as (inaudible) was saying, as Rev.
Barber just said, this is a question about what is happening in our local
communities. We will continue with coverage of this 50th commemoration of
the march on Washington when we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER REUTHER, PRES., UNITED AUTO WORKERS: I am here today with you,
because with you I share the view that the struggle for civil rights and
the struggle for equal opportunity is not the struggle of negro Americans,
but the struggle for every American to join in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to MSNBC`s live coverage of the 50th
anniversary march on Washington. I want to bring in now NBC`s Mara
Schiavocampo, who is out along the march rail, apparently with someone who
was here 50 years ago. Mara? Do we have Mara?
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, NBC CORRESPONDENT: OK, sorry, we have a little bit of a
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, we may ..
SCHIAVOCAMPO: It`s good to be on with you now. Buses have been dropping
people off all morning. The crowds are starting to gather here around the
reflecting pool. Just by eyeballing the crowd, it looks like there are
several thousand people already here. The march is set to get underway in
just a few hours. And one of those people I want to bring in and talk to
now is Beverly Alston. And Beverly was at the march 50 years ago, when she
was 12 years old. She was part of a youth leadership training program.
And Beverly, you know, you`re back here now after all these years. What
you`ve brought with you some of the original programming material. Tell me
what you have here?
BEVERLY ALSTON, ATTENDED MARCH: That`s right, Mara. 50 years ago, I was
part of a leadership training program HYU, Harlem Youth Unlimited, which is
sort of the precursor to the anti-poverty programs that, you know, later on
took place in the `60s and `70s. We came for, when the march of
Washington, for jobs and freedom. Then it was jobs and freedom, now we
want to just, you know, redeem the dream.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: And this program that you have here, has - this is the
original program, from the march. If we could just turn it around, so that
people can take a look at it. And in there, it has a list of the demands.
Tell me a little bit about what you guys were asking for at that time and
what`s been accomplished?
ALSTON: Well, there were ten demands, and basically there were - we were
looking for a minimum wage, at that time, of course, it was $2. We were
looking for equal rights under the 14th Amendment, we were looking for the
right to be a part of society. And unfortunately, Mara, as you know, I`m
here today, because a lot of those things have not changed. Who knew we
would have to come back 50 years later?
SCHIAVOCAMPO: And quickly, Beverly, how does it feel to be back 50 years
ALSTON: Absolutely amazing, just to see the thousands and thousands of
people, it`s like deja vu, to see all of those people out at the reflecting
lake. I can remember being there 50 years ago. It was hot, just like it
is today. My feet was in the water. Just so many -- just totally
interracial. It`s wonderful.
SCHIAVOCAMPRO: All right, thanks so much, Beverly. Just one of the many
voices, one of the many people who have gathered out here today to remember
the time they came here or to live it anew for the very first time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mara Schiavocampo, thank you so much. We`ll be checking
back in with you throughout the morning. Still with me, Joy Reid, Reverend
William Barber and Julian Bond.
Joy, let me come back to you. Because part of what is compelling and
interesting to me is the role that media played in all of this. And at the
time of the march, there was a great deal of conflict that, in fact, the
media had created the problem, that there wasn`t really a big race problem
in America .
HARRIS-PERRY: . that the media were creating it. And so here we are
today, once again covering this, in an environment where there are people
saying very similar things about the idea that media is generating this.
How do we respond as members of media to the need to talk about these
issues, at the same time that there is critique that the media itself
REID: It`s to blame - no, and it`s interesting, because you were just
talking earlier about the Birmingham campaign, and a lot of that was about
the shock that a lot of people saw in the north, watching those images of
what was happening to children. And that, you know, this was being done to
kids. I think that shock the contents of the nation and of the president.
Because remember, John F. Kennedy didn`t have any great interest in having
a march in Washington. But after that, he then used the media, asked for
time on the then three television networks to speak and to give that
landmark speech that he gave on - on June 11th of 1963, which was very
important. But then he did something else that was important. Based on
all of that that had been built up in the galvanizing, that was the media
was necessary to make happen, he actually introduced legislation. And part
of what the march was doing was then supporting that legislation. So
they`re all components of it.
And I think that Julian Bond could probably attest to this more than I, but
the civil rights movement was very cognizant of utilizing the media, not to
manipulate the media, but to make people see with their own eyes what
people were going through, what people were dealing with in the South. I
think today, we are challenged, because a lot of media now is - it is
opinion media. There is a lot more opinion media. I, you know, and I
think that makes it more difficult to give an objective reality that people
on the other side ideologically will accept.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although, I would - I would argue, that it was always
opinion media. It just at one point masked itself .
HARRIS-PERRY: . as a kind of neutrality. I want to ask a little bit, Mr.
Bond, specifically about the issue that Joy just brought up, in terms that
President JFK. I want to listen for a moment to President Kennedy saying,
that in fact the issue would not stand or fall on this march. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY: This issue does not stand or fall on the August 28th.
The August 28th is a chance for a good many people to express their
feelings, but it`s hard for them, a lot of other people to travel, it costs
them money, they all - many of them have jobs, so that I think that what
we`re talking about is an issue that concerns all of our people and must in
the final analysis be settled by the Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So it must be settled by the Congress. And you know, I can
see the Capitol from where we`re sitting. Talk to me about the 113th
Congress and the likelihood that at the end of this march, we can actually
begin to settle some of these key issues.
BOND: The likelihood is relatively slim, because this Congress is
composed, at least in the House, of people who want to say no to
everything. It doesn`t matter if you bring a motherhood bill to the
Congress, they`ll say, no, I`m against that. But you know, you can always
be hopeful and optimistic. I`m a big optimist. I think big - good things
usually do happen if you work hard enough. And if people who are here, and
people who are watching push the Congress, these things will happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do we really think that this Congress, the 113th, with more
than 40 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, with the largest group
of women ever elected, it would be harder to get civil rights through this
Congress than through one that was more bound in the 1960s?
BOND: It would be much harder, because there`s not the moral pressure from
the larger public that we had in 50 years ago, but we can have that kind of
moral pressure if we want to. If the people watching here, the people who
are here now go home and knock on their congressman`s doors, go to their
meetings and say, listen, we want you to do this, we count on you to do
this, it will be done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah. In fact, so I just want to very quickly - to
ask -- this is our last moment here, Reverend, about exactly that. This
idea of using pressure to get the legislation passed.
BARBER: We have to do it. That`s why when we leave here, for instance, we
are having 13 rallies in the 13 congressional districts of the 13th
congressperson on August 28th, this coming Wednesday, in the state. We
must take this and then get back to the state. We must change our moral
discourses. Dr. Julian Bond said, because the right has limited to
abortion, homosexuality, and prayer in the school. We need a moral
discourse that deals with economics; that deals with voting, that deals
with what is doing right. And if we do that, we can bring a lot of
Americans in from a very diverse place and I still have hope that the dream
cannot only be held on to, but it can be advanced. But it`s going to take
a lot of work and we have to do it at the ground level.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, it`s hard in this moment, on this day, to feel
anything other .
HARRIS-PERRY: . than a certain kind of optimism and spirit about what the
American people are capable of. Reverend Barber and Julian Bond, thank you
so much for joining us.
Coming up next, the Reverend Jesse Jackson is going to join us live. We
will be right back with more of our special coverage, the 50th anniversary
march on Washington, live from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: My country, `tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, where I sing. Land
where my fathers died. Land of the pilgrim`s pride. From every
mountainside, let freedom ring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Young people took the lead in organizing much of what we now
remember as the civil rights movement. One young leader named Jesse
Jackson became the mental bearer for organizing in the years after King`s
death. He began his work at King`s side. The Southern Christian
Leadership Conference started Operation Breadbasket in Atlanta in 1962.
And the program used a simple economic concept. African-Americans would
not patronize businesses that denied them jobs, advancement, or courtesy.
In 1966, Dr. King appointed Jesse Jackson as the first director of
operation Breadbasket in the city of Chicago. King also called the program
SCLC`s most spectacularly successful program in Chicago, adding 2,000 new
jobs and $15 million in new income to the African-American community in its
first 15 months. Jackson became the national director of Operation
Breadbasket in 1967, went on to found the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and of
course laid the groundwork for contemporary African-American political
power, with his two runs for the American presidency. I`m pleased to
welcome Reverend Jesse Jackson. He, who attended the march 50 years ago,
REV. JESSE JACKSON: It`s a long (inaudible) it seems and yet it`s just
kind of yesterday. You know, it was a season of such fear, the context,
Medgar Evers killed June 12th, the stench of his blood was in the air. The
big march in Detroit later, the week later. And, of course, (inaudible)
smoke, the Birmingham bombing less than a month later. Then John F.
Kennedy. There was a serious - a season of tumultuous uprising in our
country and great change, but a lot of bloodshed along the way and a lot of
HARRIS-PERRY: And that issue of where the violence was coming from and
then who should fear the violence. I`m going to talk to you about that for
a moment. I have something I would like us to listen to. On Meet the
Press, Roy Wilkins being asked about the likelihood that it would be
marchers who would riot. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Wilkins, there are a great many people, as I`m sure
you know, who believe that it would be impossible to bring more than
100,000 militant negroes into Washington without incidence and possibly
ROY WILKINS: I don`t think there will be any rioting. I don`t think
100,000 people, just assembling, is cause for apprehension about a riot.
The city of Washington has accommodated much larger crowds and nobody has
talked up in advance the possibility of violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So as you just pointed out, all of the violence up to this
moment had been against demonstrators, against civil rights activists, and
yet the question was, are you guys going to come here and riot?
JACKSON: But the issue was government policy. White males only, an
analysis on TV was a part of the structure of our society at that time.
But then we marched on Washington, the military had locked down the
airport, transit and bus stations. They corralled five military bases in
this area, including the Naval Base that I`m going to cast here.
But they - they put police on 18-hour shifts. And evened that black and
whites in the same police car for the first time. They closed the liquor
stores for the first time since prohibition.
HARRIS-PERRY: Canceled Major League baseball. Canceled two games of Major
JACKSON: They went wild. But the feel was to go from Texas to Florida,
when you couldn`t use a single public toilet. The real deal was black
soldiers who had to sit by Nazi prisoners of war. I was arrested trying to
use the public library. I left jail to come to the march. The deal was
the (inaudible) in alliance with the segregations of the South.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me then about how in a moment where whatever
challenges we face, for the most part people are not here fearing for their
lives. They`re not fearing that something horribly violent will occur,
which is an indication of progress, but we don`t want to just take this as
a moment to sort of reflect. We want to take this as a moment to organize.
How do we do that?
JACKSON: Well, now we have the White House and the president and the
Congress. Now we need not so much reflection and more (inaudible),
appropriation, legislation. You look at (inaudible), 40 percent, there are
communities where black joblessness is 40 percent plus, 50 percent plus.
New York, 50 percent plus. So we need to stop and employ, not just stop
and frisk. Stop and educate, stop and house. We took the biggest hit in
the home foreclosure attacks (ph), for example, racially targeted. So
today, I hope President Barack Obama will address the issue, revive the
commitment for a constitutional right to vote, we only (ph) have (ph) the
state`s right to vote. That`s why states like North Carolina and Texas are
going crazy, because they`re giving it back to the states again. We need
to (inaudible). Student loan debt forgiveness, $1 trillion student loan
debt, an impediment to education. And I would think that we should pick up
Dr. King and LBJ`s mantle of the war on poverty and poor people`s campaign.
That would be Dr. King`s legacy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Indulge me for 20 seconds, even as we are looking forward to
legislation, to activism, indulge me for 20 seconds of your most
distinctive memory 50 years ago at the march.
JACKSON: We`re standing right about here. And watching Roy Wilkins and
speaking then Walter Ruthey (ph) and Whitney Young, and seeing people like
Jackie Robinson, and seeing (inaudible), and then (inaudible), are saying
now, the moral voice of our time, Martin Luther King. And there was a
certain readiness for him. That was the crispness of that moment. And of
course, (inaudible) is saying, he took off and you just like felt
something. And we know we were going back in the territory where there was
(inaudible), profiling. Yet, we had been indulged (ph) ourselves in going
to jail. And I the field (ph) was going, we knew we were going to win.
And I had people say, what about the dream? Wasn`t no black (ph) dream.
(inaudible) was to move public accommodations denial. The law in `64. The
dream in `65 was the right to vote. `66 it was for housing. The dream
keeps on -- it goes wherever there`s a crack of injustice. That`s why I
hope that (inaudible), not how many people came, but the appropriations and
legislation to address growing poverty.
HARRIS-PERRY: Indeed. Thank you so much, Reverend Jackson.
JACKSON: You guys are so great. This is a good deal!
HARRIS-PERRY: We will return in just a bit. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes
Norton is going to join us, next. We`re going to be right back with more
of our special coverage of the 50TH anniversary of the march on Washington,
live from Washington, D.C.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be
LEWIS: We are tired. We are tired of being beat by policemen. We are
tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again. And then
you holler, be patient! How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and
we want it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a 23-year-old John Lewis, who was then the chairman
of the Student Nonviolent Coordinated Committee. He was speaking on the
National Mall during 1963`s march on Washington. He would go on to become
Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. But Lewis wasn`t the only young person
who got his start in the civil rights movement and went on to serve his
country on Capitol Hill. Another young 20-something worked at the march as
chief organizer in 1963. And I am pleased to welcome Democratic
congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton. I am so thrilled to have you here at
the table, here with Reverend Jackson. Tell me your most distinctive
memory of that day.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, D-DC: Well, Melissa, I had come up from
Mississippi, where I had been working as a SNCC worker, Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee worker, a law student for the summer. Because
Bayard Rustin, whom I knew, was going to organize the march, this march
about which we had heard so much about in our circles, not in the country.
And when I came to New York, we were starting from scratch. There had
never been a mass march anywhere in Washington. (inaudible), seeing this
new -- think about an orchestra, a symphony, how you get to the crescendo,
and Martin Luther King was the crescendo. So it was pretty hard for -- if
you looked beyond the speeches to think, well, what is it about that crowd
that seems so important? Standing in back of us at the base of the Lincoln
statue, the most memorable moment for me was looking that way, particularly
having been a part of organizing the march, over whom held great doubt, and
seeing that as far as the eye could see, I could not see the last person.
Somehow or other, out of whole cloth, a march had been created.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is so incredibly important, that I want to underline it
again. I spoke with my father and his twin brother. They were 21 when
they we are here at the mall that day. And both of them said to me, well,
the speeches mattered, the speeches were lovely, but that`s not what we
remember. What we remember were the people, the other people whom we were
here with. That was the thing that changed our lives and changed the
direction of what they did next. Is that also for you, that this was a
catalyst moment, not so much in terms of what you heard people say here,
but because of what people experienced there?
HOLMES: There`s no question. I do not believe that so many black and
white people had ever assembled in one place before in the United States of
America. You could see the evidence before you. Somehow or the other, it
seemed to me that people seeing 10 years of demonstrations in the South had
yearned for a way to participate. You couldn`t go to Alabama if you were
an average person. You couldn`t drop everything and join SNCC or whoever
these crazy people were. But this march was an opportunity to come and
participate. And people wanted that. They had seen what the media was
showing us with all these demonstrations, all this violence, all this
passive resistance. And while people didn`t want to be involved in all of
that, they did want, somehow, to be a part of it. They sensed that change
was coming. It was sweeping over the country for the first time.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it took such courage and seriousness of purpose to be
here. We`re going to take a quick break. Speeches, there are more of them
to come this morning, including Martin Luther King III, Reverend Al
Sharpton, and family members of both Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. We`ll
bring you those and many more live here on MSNBC`s continuing coverage.
There is much more ahead live from Washington, steps away from the Lincoln
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK GREGORY, COMEDIAN: My feeling is after being here and witnessing
this, that as long as there`s a man alive on the face of the earth, this
day will always be remembered the world over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Speeches are already underway here in front of the Lincoln
Memorial. Expected over the course of the next hour, Democratic Leader
Nancy Pelosi, civil right icon Myrlie Evers Williams, the Reverend Joseph
Lowery, and the only man to speak back in 1963 who is still alive today,
Congressman John Lewis.
I want to bring you in here, Joy, because it seems to me that one of the
false memories that we tend to have of this day 50 years ago is the idea
that everybody was on board. This was a great American moment. And it`s
important to remember how reviled Dr. King was. I want to listen for a
moment to Senator Strom Thurmond, reflecting on the state of civil rights
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. STROM THURMOND, SOUTH CAROLINA: They do have freedom. They have more
freedom here than in any country in the world. The Negroes in this
country, own more refrigerators and more automobiles than they do in any
other country. They are better fed, they are better clothed, they are
better housed here than in any other country in the world. No one is
deprived of freedom that I know about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: No -- no one is (inaudible) of any freedom that he happens
to know about.
REID: Yeah, what are they complaining about? I think it`s fascinating to
listen to that and then to think about today and sort of the parallels
between the argument now, which is you`ve got a black president, what is it
that you want? And I think there is that sort of sense in conservatism,
that why rock the boat, you have a lot here, and we just want you to
proclaim that the country is great. And African-Americans clearly believe
the country is great. That`s why African-Americans march, and that`s why
they organize, that`s why they care, because we believe the country is
great. But that notion that`s all there is, is really false and insane,
but it is consistent.
HARRIS-PERRY: And particularly the language he used, they own more
refrigerators and more automobiles, they`re better fed and better clothed.
And it`s almost as though, because we clothe and feed them -- and I`m
thinking about the fight that is going just down a mile down the road
there, at the Capitol, this idea that we owe nothing to poor peoples in our
communities. And to be poor in America is still better than to be poor in
other parts, so what are you complaining about?
NORTON: And he`s from a state where people weren`t that well clothed.
REID: And they still aren`t. And the fight against social justice is
rooted in the notion that why do you want something from me? When it isn`t
a question of something from an individual American that has it, it`s a
question of what does a nation owe to its own people? You know, what do we
owe to our own people? We spend a lot of money taking care of people all
around the world. What do we owe to the least among us here? I think there
is a notion in part in society that the answer to that is nothing. That
you are only owed what you can get to yourself.
But what I love about movements like this, is these aren`t movements where
people come together to complain. It`s as if you were saying before, it`s
where people come together to gather their strength, gather their moral
strength together, and be together in a call for justice and a call for
fairness. What I also love about what you`ve been showing in all the
clips, is the cultural symmetry that there was in the movement. All the
biggest stars, all the biggest celebrities. Our culture was all on the
same page, from music to movies.
It was sort of a moment where the entirety of the culture was in accord.
And I think that`s one of the challenges that we have now with activism.
We have a lot of the hip hop community that`s come together. And I think
the Trayvon Martin moment really has made a difference and it`s caused
people to do that. I think there was a lot of galvanizing around the
elections as well. But I wish we could get back to that authentic
agreement in our culture.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting, because to the extent there was a deep
fissure that was around kind of the red scare and the idea that both
Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the organizers, the organizers of the
original march, were people who were avowedly and ultimately socialist in
their perspective. What are your great memories of Rustin in particular?
The man who made that original march run on time?
NORTON: And run it all. This was the genius of the march. I was one of a
small clack of young people who hung around Bayard Rustin. He was the
movement intellectual. He had run freedom rights in 1942. He had - he was
a pacifist who had gone to war, resisting -- gone to jail resisting the
war, World War II. He was the only man who kind of brought it all
together. In fact, I think he`s the only person who could have organized
And he was of course personally attacked by Strom Thurmond, because he was
one of the openly gay black or white men in the universe at the time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Black, gay and socialist in 1963. I find - you got to love
Rustin. Thank you so much for being here. We are live in Washington, D.C.
For the 50TH commemoration of the march on Washington. Today`s march is
slated to begin in about an hour and a half. But dozens of people,
including Congressman John Lewis and Martin Luther King III are going to
address these growing crowds from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial over
the course of the next hour and a half. Our coverage will continue at the
top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to MSNBC`s continuing coverage of the 50TH
anniversary of the march on Washington for jobs and freedom. I`m Melissa
Thousands of people have filled the National Mall to hear speeches from
civil rights leaders and elected officials. Speaking from the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a
Dream" speech 50 years ago.
Eric holder, the nation`s first African-American attorney general is
scheduled to speak during this hour. His will be among many speeches that
we will bring you live.
But, first, I want to talk about the legacy of that day, 50 years ago, and
how it has become inextricably linked with the legacy of the day`s most
So, Joy, we often talk about, King came to the speech -- came to the march
and delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech.
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: But in fact, those words were not even used. That was a
riff, a common riff he had used previously.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me a little bit about that.
REID: You know, it`s interesting, because the prepared remarks that King
actually came to deliver were quite different than what people remember.
The "I Have a Dream" was a riff he used in churches. He`d used it many
times before. It wasn`t anything new. But his prepared text was about the
blank check, the bad check.
REID: The Negro had been given this bad check. And it was really an
indictment of the American system and what it had done to African-American.
But people don`t remember that King, the "I Have a Dream" came mid-speech
when he started to feel it. And people say, well, because Mahalia Jackson
yelled out something to him. But whether it was dad or he just started
went into preacher mode and decided to talk about this dream, that is not
what he came to do.
And a lot of people that I`ve spoken with, we`ve done a lot of interviews
with folks who were there. And I actually spoke with a gentleman, a white
guy, who was head of the NCAAP in Miami. And he said what he remembered
most was the part about the bad check.
REID: And its notion that America after slavery had essentially said that
we will make it right with the African-American, with the Negro, at a time,
and hadn`t done.
And this speech -- this march was so much about economic injustice, and so
much about the part about jobs, justice, and freedom that the "I Have a
Dream" part is a gauzy remembrance and in a way takes away from the
underlying purpose of the march.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And it didn`t I take away from it in that moment --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- but in our historical willful mis-remembrance, we want to
remember the holding hands and singing, but we don`t want to talk about
that check that was returned, insufficient funds.
I want to take a moment and go into the crowd of today`s event, not just
into the past, but in this moment.
Mara Schiavocampo of NBC is standing by live in the crowd.
Hi, Mara, how are you? Who do you have there with you?
MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Melissa, the crowd is
growing. Buses are dropping people off by the moment. I would say there
is several thousand people here. And I`m here with a group from Philly.
They`ve been on the road since 4:00 this morning.
Andrea Johnson is with her groups, Girls You Can Do It Inc. It`s a youth
Why was it important for you to come here (AUDIO GAP) these kids. (AUDIO
GAP) This is the first time for all of you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. we`re always wanting our children to know about
their history and the struggles that was made for them and the relevance
and importance of those struggles. So, bringing them to the march on
Washington was something big that our organization wanted to do, so they
can experience what their fore-sisters and brothers and cousins and aunts
and uncles and all had done to help them with regards to getting them to
where they are today.
So it was important for me to bring them here, so they can experience all
this great event, and for myself as well. I`ve heard so much about it from
loving history, and I just wanted them to experience something with me for
the first time as well.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: Now, you mentioned that certain issues that the kids are
growing up with, like crime and violence, because of the city that you`re
in, and obviously it`s a problem in cities across the country, what is it
that you want them to take away from this so that they can then use in
their lives in trying to make their communities a better place?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, I want them to take away that their voice,
they have a voice. And by using their voice, they can make a difference
and make change. That it takes one person to stand up, to be a leader and
say, I`m going to make a change. And for them to have already started
doing that and now for them to have their peers following them now is
something that gives them greater relevance or a greater -- you know, a
greater knowledge of what they need to do, how to use their voices
effectively and efficiently, in order to bring about change.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: And you`re 11 years old, you`re here at this event. I`m
sure you know the history of it. You`ve seen the video clips. What does
it mean to you to be here for this today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It actually means a lot to me, because it`s kind of
my -- it`s actually my history, and I am -- it`s my history and I like to
learn history a lot.
SCHIAVOCAMPO: We have some young budding activists here. Thank you so
much for that. Girls You Can Do It Inc. group out of Philly, just some
(AUDIO GAP) this crowd. And, of course, it`s swelling as people continue
to arrive and get ready r that march -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much, Mara, and thank you to the young people
who are here. You maybe see that the Reverend Al Sharpton and Martin
Luther King III are arriving here. Some of the folks in the crowd are
seeing them and cheering.
Those are people who were children, right, children during the last march,
Joy. And so here we are seeing children in the crowd now, and of course,
we don`t know which of those children might be the Reverend Al Sharpton,
you know, who will some day be reflecting on this moment. And not just
this moment today, but the fact that those young people have their own set
of challenges to engage in.
When you look at the 11-year-old, the 12-year-old facing this particular
set of American structures, do you see those structures as more difficult
or perhaps more difficult or at least to challenge with this kind of
movement, than the challenges 50 years ago that were faced by young people?
REID: I think in some ways, just because the moral outrage against what
was happening, particularly in the South, but all over the country, in
terms of segregation, it was very easy to understand and it was sort of
singular. The idea that people were being denied public accommodations was
a stark reality that was easy to legislate against. And let`s also
remember that the Democratic president had a two-thirds majority in the
Senate and the House. So we had an overwhelming legislative majority.
Even though it was challenging, they still had a context that they could
get something like that through, despite the resistance of a lot of
Southern Democrats, let`s be honest, to the idea of civil rights bill, for
Kennedy`s bill that ultimately became Lyndon Johnson`s bill.
Today, I think it`s difficult because ideologically, people are so much
more dug in. And even the concept of organizing and marching and
advocating for what you call civil rights has become an ideological issue.
It was then, as well, obviously, too. But it`s become almost a political
truism. That if you are in one party, you are not allowed to touch these
issues. You have to say no for political reasons of self-preservation.
REID: So this Congress makes it really challenging because remember, this
march was designed in part to support legislation that was trying to go
through Congress. And now, the idea of being able to legislate through
these issues, it just feels more daunting and more difficult.
HARRIS-PERRY: And some of them let you raising the minimum wage to a
livable wage and making sure that people work in circumstances of dignity,
that these are part of our contemporary as well.
I want to listen to a moment of Fred Shuttlesworth, because he`s talking
about why a movement would matter, why a march in particular would matter.
And I want to listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED SHUTTLESWORTH, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We`re going to march! We`re
going to walk together! We`re going to stand together. We`re going to
sing together! We`re going to stay together! We`re going to move
together! We`re going to grow together! That`s why we said, freedom,
freedom, freedom, freedom now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That emotion, we are going to be together, and so, I heard -
- I hear that adult saying, I brought these children, because we need to be
together in order to face this difficult set of strategic and political
REID: Yes, and it`s difficult because I think now, a lot of people see the
march on Washington as history. But in the sense, that history has become
an excuse of dismantling the very laws that were put in place as a result,
right? The things that happened in `64 and `65 that were a result of 20-
plus years of organizing, obviously, but that the march helped happened,
are now the excuse for dismantling a lot of those social protections.
So, it`s more difficult to make a direct case of why you need this big
moment and this big legislative movement. So, it`s difficult and I think
for a lot of young people, this seems like history. It feels -- it clearly
is a very different country. With the direct impediments to accessing
schools and accessing restaurants and public accommodations, those have
fallen away, thank God.
And we are a more progressive nation, so it`s more difficult to make the
case that we need fundamental, structural change.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, of course, we`re sitting here in Washington, D.C. Our
president is a re-elected African-American Democratic president. You and
I, two black women are sitting on television, having a conversation about
And yet that`s exactly the point, is that this movement 50 years ago wasn`t
about elevating one man to one office or two girls to these seats.
REID: Exactly, exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: How do we measure what accomplishment looks like for the
collective in a conference where there are some very real individual
REID: Right, right. And those individual achievements, you get back the
Oprah question. If Oprah is rich, can you possibly say there is an
economic inequality based on race? Or can you say that for the LBGT
community, there are a lot of individual gay and lesbian folk that are
doing great, that doesn`t mean the mass are doing great.
So, it`s more difficult to make the case because you have these individual
examples that are so profound and so powerful, that it`s difficult to make
the case to the people who will oppose it.
And then the economy is structured so much differently. We`re in a global
economy, where Americans are competing against a world of workers who will
work for less. So the downward pressure on wages isn`t just coming from
people who oppose the minimum wage, it`s coming from the global economy.
We`re in such a complex environment that it`s difficult to directly
advocate, because how do you deal with the international, economic
situation? Ho do you deal with all of that and hold that in?
So, it`s a lot more complex, sort of like a Rubik`s cube now. So, it`s
HARRIS-PERRY: And, of course, those civil rights workers thought it was a
challenge to go support and challenge President Kennedy, and man, is it
hard to do that in the context of an Obama administration? We want to know
how you`re advancing the dream. And we don`t just want to know by having
you tell us, we want you to show us.
Head to advancingthedream.MSNBC.com. That`s advancingthedream.MSNBC.com to
share what you`re doing to help further Dr. King`s dream. Use
#advancingthedream and tweet us a picture that explains how you`re helping
our nation to move forward.
We`re going to be right back with our special coverage of the 50th
anniversary of the march on Washington, live from Washington, D.C.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITNEY YOUNG, JR., NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: This represents a grassroots
ferment, a deep determination in the hearts of millions of brown Americans
to be free and it is a tribute to them that they have chosen to still
appeal to their government in this type of dignified matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I am Melissa Harris-Perry and we are part of MSNBC`s live
and continuing coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington.
You`re looking right now at a live shot of the Lincoln Memorial. The
Lincoln Memorial is, of course, an iconic image here on the Mall in
Washington, D.C. It is from these steps at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr.
King delivered the speech which we now think of as the "I Have a Dream"
He stood and looked out over literally miles of bodies, of people who had
come, black and white, people from the South and from the North people who
were Christian and people who were Jewish, who came out faith. Who stood
in this place with a faith that the American people could, in fact, to do
great things -- things as great as what is represented there by the Lincoln
Memorial. And joining us now is someone who always gets me revved up,
thinking about the possibilities of American greatness.
Barbara Arnwine, who is with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under
Barbara, I am so pleased to have you here, because when we think about the
great accomplishment that came 50 years ago --
BARBARA ARNWINE, LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- the `64 Civil Rights Act, the `65 Voting Rights Act. Two
years there this moment, what do we need to see, legislatively, in order to
be able to say that we are truly moving forward?
ARNWINE: Well, the most important things that we need to see, one is the
restoration of the Voting Rights Act. And that is absolutely imperative.
And every America who`s watching today should be on the phone, calling
their Congress. They should be tweeting. They should be demanding that
Congress passes a new Voting Rights Act to restore the damage that was done
by the Supreme Court in the Shelby case.
Second, they need to pass a new sentencing act that gets rid of all the
disparities between crack and coke, powder, campaign. They also need to be
passing laws to de-carcerate, to try to get rid of this mass incarceration
and take away from this war on drugs, the sting of minor offenses.
Having a single joint should not have people in jail for years. We`ve got
to do that, because 52 percent of all people in jail are there for minor
They need to have a national law saying that no law enforcement agency that
engages in stop and frisk in a racial profiling way will be given a dime of
federal money. There`s need to be all kinds of legislations in the
criminal justice area.
We also need a jobs bill! A jobs bill! I mean, we need to employ the
American people. It`s a tragedy that in our country that millions of
people are unemployed. Millions of all are races unemployed, all genders.
Coming out of college and not getting jobs. We`ve got to change that
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you on the first one. You`ve laid out voting and
incarceration reform and economics.
On the first one, how confident are you that we can get a new federal
formula that will reinvigorate Section 5 by addressing the formula, Section
4, which was struck down by the Supreme Court?
ARNWINE: I am confident that if the American people rise up, if they
demand a voting rights act that we`ll get one. I think that 200,000 or so,
look at the hundreds of thousands of people, the tens of thousands that are
here today, if everybody said, I`m marching, in my own way, I might be at
home today, but I`m going to march, because I`m going to demand that my
congressperson, my senator pass a new Voting Rights Act.
If they hear you, they`ll pass it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. We`re going to be right back with more of our
special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, live
from Washington, D.C.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking out over so must have of these smiling faces.
The last time I`ve seen this many of us, Bull Connor was doing all the
talking. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m Melissa Harris-Perry and I`m here on the Mall at
Washington, D.C., for the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington.
Joining Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC and Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee
on Civil Rights Under the Law s Jelani Cobb, associate professor at the
University of Connecticut.
Nice to see you this morning, Jelani.
JELANI COBB, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Help us out.
We`ve been trying to think about the legislative efforts going forward.
But help me with the historical memory here. What is it that we most
misremember about the march 50 years ago?
COBB: I think that we misremember, when we start 50 years ago, the march
(INAUDIBLE) really in 1941, what Randolph did, one of the most audacious
things in African-American history, and that is he essentially mobilized
what would have been nearly 100,000 people with the demand that on the
verge of World War II, the defense industries that were increasingly hiring
lots of people. Unemployment had dropped substantially, because of all the
hiring in anticipation of war, and African-Americans were not part of that
And A. Phillip Randolph mobilized at a time when people were saying he
should not do this. This will disrupt national morale, this will be
harmful to the effort of civil rights, he mobilized, on one week before
this march, President Franklin Roosevelt came and said, we`re going to
issue executive order 8802 that will prevent discrimination in the defense
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact, Randolph then becomes an architect of this
COBB: That`s right, that`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s listen very quickly to A. Philip Randolph in August
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
A. PHILIP RANDOLPH, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: We believe that it is one of the
biggest, most creative and constructive demonstrations ever held in the
history of our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And so there is A. Philip Randolph in that moment, reminding
us that this has been a multi-decade planning process this allows some of
these legislative accomplishments that we talk about now.
COBB: That`s right. The other important aspect of this, remember, this is
a march for jobs and freedom.
HARRIS-PERRY: One moment for me -- Ben Jealous, the current head of the
NAACP, is taking the podium now to address the crowd.
BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: When they say, "no, you can`t," we say,
"yes, we can!" When they say, "no, you can`t, past or real, racial
profiling them with teeth," we say, "yes, we can!" Because, yes, we did,
two days ago in New York City.
When they say, "no, you can`t pass the DREAM Act, no, you can`t pass
marriage equality, no, you can`t abolish the death penalty. No, you can`t
expand voting rights I any state, south of the Mason-Dixon" -- we say, yes,
we can! Because yes, we did just five miles from here in Maryland last
When they say -- when they say, yes -- when they say, "No, you can`t
restore the full force of thing of the Voting Rights Act, no, you can`t
raise the minimum wage, not with this Congress", we say, yes, we can,
because, yes, we have, again and again.
So let us claim some victories right now let us say -- yes, we will pass
Trayvon`s law from coast to coast. Let us say, yes, we will protect the
right to vote with all our might until we win the fight finally once and
And let us say, yes, we will raise the minimum wage because you cannot
survive on $7.25! Yes, we will! Yes, we will! Yes, we will!
God bless you and God bless the NAACP.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ben Jealous of the NAACP, addressing the crowd here in
Washington, D.C., at the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington.
I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We will continue to bring you speakers
throughout the morning as this march continues to get underway.
I want to bring in now Taylor Branch. Taylor Branch is an historian and
historical biographer of Martin Luther King Jr. I would like to chat with
him for a moment about this moment. It`s so nice to see you and to have
TAYLOR BRANCH, HISTORIAN: I`m glad to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk with me about who Dr. King is, in his journey, to
who he is becoming on August 28th, 1963. Sort of, who is the king that we
see on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial?
BRANCH: It`s a king that`s been trying ever since the bus boycott to
define America`s historical moment. His great breakthrough occurred just a
few months earlier in Birmingham, when the dogs and the fire hoses were
unleashed on small children, which set off spontaneous demonstrations that
led to the need for a mass march to support his civil rights bill. That`s
what brought him here.
He had an opportunity to stand up there and define what the moment meant.
The movement was based not only on oratory, it was based on sacrifice and
people willing to stretch across the differences that divided people. But
he spoke for it and he gave I a tremendous grounding here in both out of
our civic and our spiritual aspirations, of equal souls and equal votes.
That`s what he did in the "I Have a Dream" speech. Even though he didn`t
deliver -- none of what`s famous is what he planned to say.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, which I think is important.
I want to talk, though, about what you just said, that it wasn`t based just
in oratory, or even primarily, but in sacrifice. There was enormous amount
of bloodshed in the months and the immediate weeks leading up to this march
50 years ago. Tell us what people standing on that mall would have been
thinking about, about the level of sacrifice and violence that they were
BRANCH: Well, first of all, a lot of people were afraid even to come to
the march. Don`t let people kid you that it was a cakewalk. Black people
and white people were scared of it. The federal government, the District
of Columbia canceled liquor sales for the first time since prohibition,
they were so scared. They canceled elective surgery, they stockpiled
plasma, they had riot troops in the suburbs.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
BRANCH: Major League Baseball canceled not one, but two Washington
Senators games, fearing that we would still be cleaning up from Armageddon.
So, we were fearful.
One reason the march on Washington has such a patriotic glow today is that
white America was immensely relieved.
HARRIS-PERRY: They were shocked!
BRANCH: They were terrified. And it turns out they`re giving an "I Have a
Dream" speech and they`re patriots just like everyone else. So we`re still
living in that to some degree.
And some places, it makes the movement a little more suckling (ph) than it
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that -- I think that`s an important point. I want to go
for a moment as we think about what people were thinking 50 years ago.
I want to go on to the Mall with NBC`s Peter Alexander right now, because
he`s with there with some folks who are having thoughts about why they`re
here right now -- Peter.
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS: Melissa, good to visit with you. We`re on
Independence Avenue right now. This is where the march today is going to
take place, not long from now. We are in the shadow of Martin Luther
King`s Memorial here, introducing you to some of the families we have met
This is Ruth Whitfield and her beautiful daughters. You guys came from
Buffalo. You Angela as I understand came from Dublin, Ohio.
Mom, tell me if you would, what is the meaning of this day to be here with
your daughters since you couldn`t be here 50 years ago?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m really excited. I think it`s a time in history.
And my children and my grandchildren will be able to look back on this and
know that we were able to be here for this occasion.
ALEXANDER: And I should ask you, Angela, you have three daughters, one
finishing college as I understand, two that did at Ohio State. What is, as
it was the march for jobs and freedom, what is the status of the job
environment for daughters like yours?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s difficult at the moment, but we are here because
we want them to be encouraged. We want them to know that it`s going to be
OK. As long as they continue to fight and not forget from whence we`ve
ALEXANDER: We appreciate you guys being with us.
If I can, very quickly, introducing you to one other individual you`ve met.
LaTonya, it`s nice to see you, LaTonya Cabot (ph), from not far away in
Virginia. Your family, your mom is from Little Rock, Arkansas. You said,
in your own church, u have members of the Little Rock nine.
Why are you here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am here to represent my family. They`re originally
from the Midwest, but I want to show that I can be here, since I live close
by, and that for Dr. Martin Luther King, I wanted to come out and support
and meet other families from different states that was here 50 years ago.
ALEXANDER: And you said today is about building a new tradition as well.
All the new people you`ve met today, the new contact information you`ve got
to build a community going forward.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We`ve exchanged phone numbers and e-mails, so
we could stay in touch. We`ve taken pictures and we`ve exchanged business
cards. But it`s really good, and I`m in support of President Obama`s
ALEXANDER: LaTonya, it`s nice to meet you.
You`ll appreciate, Melissa, that her shirt reads, "good hair." You tell me
that`s not good hair right there. She did it. She did it right.
It is a great day out here, as these people who wait to tabs on the march
wait here on Independence Avenue.
HARRIS-PERRY: Peter, thank you so much. I would like to bring in at this
moment Marcia Fudge, who is speaking. We`ll take a moment and listen to
REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D), OHIO: -- good jobs and equal pay. We continue to
fight for fair housing and believe it or not, we continue the fight for the
unabridged right to vote. We are fighting today for equal justice under
law, and we all know what I`m talking about.
The efforts that have been -- the efforts we`ve seen over the past few
years to roll back the clock must fire up the civil rights movement of
today. I`m here to remind you that tomorrow`s dream depends on today`s
We`ve come this far by faith. We cannot turn back now or lose faith. To
quote Dr. King, he said that the ultimate measure of a man is not where he
stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times
of challenge and controversy.
It is time for us to get uncomfortable. It is time for us to be in
inconvenienced. We are living in a time of great challenge and great
controversy. We cannot rest, we must not rest until our work is done.
So I`m here to remind you that it is time for us to do something, to stand
for something. To say something, to march for something, to go forward,
always go forward. Civil rights is unfinished business, and each one of us
needs to make it our business. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Representative Marcia Fudge, Democrat from Ohio.
Ohio, of course, being one of the ground zeros on the questions of voting
in both 2000 and 2004. We are joined now by Wade Henderson, the president
and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
So nice to have you here, Wade.
WADE HENDERSON, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Thank
you. Great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to ask you about two things. First, I want you
to tell me your story of being here on the mall and why you were here and
how you got here 50 years ago.
HENDERSON: Well, you know, it`s an interesting story and, in fact, it
picks up on something that Taylor Branch just said. I`m from Washington,
D.C. This is the nation`s capital. I was 15 in 1963 and the first quarter
of my life as an adult was grown up in a segregated world.
Washington, D.C. was a city grouped by apartheid, like, perhaps, the rest
of the country in the South at that time was -- a separate, rigid racial
code. And so, it was in 1963 that Washington, D.C., as the site of this
march, had really been traumatized by the press. We had been told that
violence was likely to occur.
Four thousand members of the National Guard had been impaneled and were
waiting just outside of the city in case there was trouble. And in fact,
other police departments in the eastern region had been contacted and said,
look, be on notice, because we may have real problems.
So when the federal government decided to have liberal leave for most of
their employees, when liquor sales were stopped, when, in fact, there was a
clear sense of, you know, panic in the city, many in my community chose not
to participate in the march.
HENDERSON: And my own family was concerned about the violence that might
occur, and really discouraged me and others from coming. I said that I
wanted to watch the march with my grandmother, who lived nearby, and I
decided to ride my bike to see her.
But that really wasn`t what it was about. You know, for me, this was a
rite of passage. I was a 15-year-old young man, feeling himself feeling
that I wanted to be a part of this moment. And I knew it was going to be a
moment in time.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, that idea of a right of passage, associated
with a political and social movement is, I think, part of what I hear young
people today say, I want to have been part of something and now I want to
be part of something.
But, Jelani, it doesn`t seem like g a march would be that rite of passage
Actually, pause for one moment. We`re going to pause to Eric Holder,
attorney general for the United States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. Wonderful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you! Thank you.
It is an honor for me to be here today among so many friends, distinguished
civil rights leaders, members of Congress, and fellow citizens who fought,
rallied, and organized from the streets of this nation to the halls of our
Capitol to advance the cause of justice.
Fifty years ago, Dr. King shared his dream with the world and described
visions for a society that offered and delivered the promise of equal
justice under law.
He assured his fellow citizens that his goals was within reach, so long as
they kept faith with one another and maintained the courage and the
commitment to work toward it. And he urged them to do just that, by
calling for no more and no less than equal justice, by standing up for the
civil rights to which everyone is entitled, and by speaking out in the face
of hatred, violence, and defiance of those who sought to turn them back
with fire hoses, bullets, and bombs for the dignity of a promise kept, the
honor of a right redeemed, and the pursuit of a sacred truth that`s been
woven through the history of our nation`s country, that all are created
Now, those who marched on Washington in 1963 had taken a long and difficult
road, from Montgomery to Greensboro to Birmingham, through Selma and
Tuscaloosa. They marched in spite of animosity, depression, and brutality
because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and
despaired of the founding promises not kept. Their focus at that time was
the sacred and sadly unmet commitments of the American system as it applied
As we gather today, 50 years later, their march is now our march and it
must go on and our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of
Latinos, of Asian-Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with
disabilities, and of countless others across this great country who still
yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment.
Dr. King`s indelible words helped to alter the course of history. And his
work provided the foundation for much of the progress that has followed.
But this morning, as we recommit ourselves to his quest for progress, we
must note that in addition to Dr. King, they must also stand on the
shoulders of untold millions whose names may be lost to history, but whose
stories and whose contributions must be remembered and must be treasured.
Surely, those who stood on the Mall in the summer of 1963, but we must also
remember those who rode buses, who sat at lunch counters, who stood up to
racist governments and governors, and tragically those who gave their
lives. We must remember generations who carried themselves on a day-to-day
basis with great dignity in the face of unspeakable injustice, sacrificing
their own ambitions so that the opportunities of future generations would
But for them, I would not be attorney general of the United States and
Barack Obama would not be president of the United States of America.
We must remember those who labored for wages that measured neither their
worth nor their effort. We must remember those who served and fought and
died wearing the uniform of a nation that they cared so much about, but
which did not reciprocate that devotion in equal measure. Each of these
brave men and women displayed a profound love of country that must always
It is to these people that we owe the greatest debt. Americans of all
races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds, who
risked everything in order that their fellow citizens and their children
might truly be free. It is to them that we must all say, in the most
profound of ways -- thank you. It is to them that I dedicate my words this
morning and it is in their honor that I pledge my continuing service in the
hope that it might pay worthy tribute to their sacrifices.
But today`s observance is about far more than reflecting on our past.
Today`s march is also about committing to shape the future that we will
undoubtedly share. A future that preserves the progress and builds on the
achievements that have led us to this moment.
Today, we look to the work that remains unfinished, and make note of our
nation`s shortcomings. Not because we wish to dwell on imperfection, but
because as those who came before us, we love this great country. We want
this nation to be all that it was designed to be and all that it can
We recognize that we are forever bound to one another, and that we stand
united by the work that lies ahead and by the journey that still stretches
before us. This morning, we affirm that the struggle must and will go on
in the cause of our nation`s quest for justice. Until every eligible
American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered
by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices.
It must go on until our criminal justice system can assure that all are
created equally and fairly in the eyes of the law. And it must go on until
every action that we take reflects our values and that which is best about
us. It must go on until those who are now living and generations yet to be
born can be assured the rights and the opportunities that have been too
long denied to too many.
The America envisioned at this site 50 years ago, the beloved community,
has not yet been realize realized, but half a century after the march and
150 years after emancipation, it is finally -- it is finally within our
grasp. Together, through determined effort, through a willingness to
confront corrosive forces tied to special interests, rather than the common
good, and through devotion to our founding documents, I know that in the
21st century, we will see an America that is more perfect and more fair.
I thank each of you for your continuing dedication to this cause and your
leadership of this important work, and I look forward to all that we will
surely achieve together by advancing the cause that remains our common
pursuit, by preserving the legacy that we are called on to extend and by
helping to realize the dream that still guides our every step.
Thank you all very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-
American attorney general of the United States, serving under the first
African-American president of the United States.
And, Barbara, I`ve got to say, I feel like some history was just made.
HARRIS-PERRY: That attorney general getting that particular response, the
roar of the crowd for an attorney general, how different is that from 50
ARNWINE: Unprecedented. Think about it. That was the largest, most
loudest greeting for any speaker today that we`ve heard so far.
HARRIS-PERRY: That we`ve heard!
ARNWINE: And that was because they know that he`s fighting for voting
rights, they`ve seen him sue taxes, they`ve seen him sue taxes twice.
They`ve seen him stop people in South Carolina and other states. They know
he`s out there fighting for him and they also are responding to his speech
of last week, where he called for criminal justice reform.
They know this is a man who`s not just about locking people up. He`s not a
man who`s about just doing the business of keeping America going. He`s
about a new America. He`s about a new sense of justice.
And I think it`s great to see that justice is back in the Department of
HARRIS-PERRY: And how important was it, Wade, for him to stand there and
say, people with disabilities, gay and lesbian Americans, Latinos, women,
and African-Americans, such an inclusive message.
HENDERSON: It was an extraordinary speech. And I daresay no attorney
general prior to Eric Holder has ever spoken with such eloquence to a mass
delegation of citizens and to those who wanted to be citizens.
So, the fact that he lifted up groups that has never previously been
acknowledged as part of the American firmament, from a state like this,
gays and lesbians, persons with disabilities, Latinos who with 11 million
undocumented persons in our country, the administration is committed to a
comprehensive immigration bill. This was a new vision of America, and it
was one that this attorney general helped usher into the process.
HARRIS-PERRY: Compare it for me, to what might have been the response of
this crowd in 1963, had the attorney general stood up and spoken?
BRANCH: Well, remember who was the attorney general?
HARRIS-PERRY: You can`t. Exactly.
BRANCH: By the end of his life, five years later, he probably would have
wished he had been here. But on that date, he was considering pressure
from J. Edgar Hoover, to wiretap Martin Luther King.
BRANCH: Which is what was going on. J. Edgar Hoover said the day after
the march, he received a secret edict that said King`s demagoguing "I Have
a Dream" speech should mark him as the most dangerous Negro in America.
It`s a sobering thought to us now that a member of our government would be
so jaundices against something that was so profoundly patriotic and we have
to live with that responsibility.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to pause on that. That is not just an historic
question. So right in this moment, as so many people on this Mall are
thinking about issues of criminal justice, reform, in the form of stop and
frisk, as they`re thinking about issues around voting rights, we`re also
thinking about the NSA. And we`re also thinking about the fact that that
J. Edgar Hoover moment of listening in on wiretapping is also part of our
How do we make that also -- is there a way we can learn of that historic
moment in our contemporary one?
BRANCH: The civil rights movement was wrestling with the profoundest
questions of how a democracy worked. Nowadays, we have sound bites of
answers and we`re divided between two factions, each of whom said we would
be perfect if the other half dropped dead. The civil rights movement
didn`t say that. It said, we should move together.
I`ve been doing this 30 years, the most common complaint that I get from
people about doing civil rights works is, why do you want to keep bringing
this up --
HARRIS-PERRY: Pause for just one moment. We`ve got Marc Morial of the
National Urban League speaking.
MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: I stand here to reaffirm our
commitment to the civil rights and equal opportunities from then and now,
and the fundamental notion that we must redeem the dream in order to
realize the dream.
We must redeem the dream, because there are those who have attacked our
democracy, our voting rights, and our access to equal economic opportunity.
They may wear different clothes. They may use different slogans. They may
have different talking points.
But like those in 1963 -- they filibuster, they obstruct, and they hinder.
We must redeem the dream, because 21st century forces are at work to
eliminate and reverse our economic process through a vicious assault on our
nation`s poorest, weakest, most disadvantaged, and dispossessed citizens.
We must redeem the dream, because our children should live in communities
without senseless gun violence. Our children deserve access to quality
education that will lead to jobs that break generational cycles of poverty
and our children should go to bed on a full stomach and wake up and attend
a god school with great teachers. We must redeem the dream, because full
employment and economic employment for all and eternal values that
transcend any century.
We will redeem the dream. We will redeem the dream so that this generation
of Americans from all walks of life are active and not silent, committed
and not complacent, as we stand our ground against those forces that seek
to reverse the clock.
There are those who wish to pass stand your ground legislation. We say, we
will stand our ground against any person, any policy, any procedure, any
movement that threatens our civil rights, our voting rights, and economic
Commemoration, 50 years ago, is where we started. Commitment is what we
pledge. Continuation is where we`re going.
This is the 21st century agenda for jobs and freedom. This is the new
civil rights movement.
Thank you very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Marc Morial of the National Urban League invoking
the language of stand your ground. In this case not to mean armed self-
defense, but instead, Jelani, his language of stand your ground to mean
something about the preservation of a set of civil rights that have been
hard earned over the past 50 years.
COBB: That`s right. I mean, I think it`s really important that we`re
seeing these ties between issues of this day historic and the parallels to
what people are seeing now, especially in the issues of law enforcement.
So, that`s what makes Eric Holder`s speech stand out again. (INAUDIBLE)
the predominantly larger African-American crowd, here is the nation top law
enforcement officer. I don`t think we can escape how important that is.
The other thing I will add, one point to Mr. Branch`s comment about --
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for one moment, we have Mayor Cory Booker, mayor of
Newark, New Jersey, who is currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: -- actually we`re here 50 years ago.
But please allow me to speak to those like myself who were not even alive
when the march on Washington happened. My father when I was growing up
said it very simply.
When I used to walk around the community, walk around our home, he used to
look at me and say, boy, don`t you dare walk around here like you hit a
triple because you were born on third base.
You are enjoying freedoms, opportunity, technology, things that were given
to you both by the struggles and the sacrifices and the work of those who
came before. Don`t you forget where you come from.
You drank deeply from wells of freedom and liberty and opportunity that you
did not dig. You eat lavishly from banquet tables, prepared for you by
your ancestors. We in my generation cannot now afford to sit back
consuming all of our blessings, getting dumb, fat and happy thinking that
we have achieved freedom. The truth of the matter is, that the dream still
demands that the moral conscience of our country still calls us, that hope
still needs heroes.
We need to understand that there is still work to do. When the leading
cause of death for black men my age and younger is gun violence, we still
have work to do. When we still have a justice system that treats the
economically disadvantaged and minorities different than others, we still
have work to do.
When you can in America work a full-time job plus over time and still be
below the stifling line of poverty, we still have work to do. When we see
wages stagnating, when child poverty is increasing, when the rich are
getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, when millions of our
children are living in neighborhoods where their soil is toxic and their
rivers are polluted and their air quality is so poor that asthma is
epidemic, we still have work to do.
And so my generation, we can`t sit back now thinking democracy is a
spectator sport when all we can do is watch our TV screens and cheer for
our side, democracy demands action. We can`t sit back and get caught up in
a state of sedentary agitation where we get so upset about the world going
on but we don`t get up and do something about it. We cannot allow
ourselves to let our inability to do everything undermine our determination
to do something.
So now I call upon my generation to understand that we can never pay back
the struggles and the sacrifices of the generation before. But it is our
moral obligation to pay it forward. So, now, we must stand like King
stood, like thousands of others stood, like Ella Baker stood, like Goodman
and Chaney and Schwerner stood, like the Freedom Riders stood.
We must stand now. We must stand until we live in a nation where it
doesn`t matter who you love but we don`t have second class citizenship or
gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. We must stand now until we become a
nation where a woman working the same job as a man gets the same pay. We
We must stand for a country where 20 percent of our children are not
shackled by the chains of poverty. We must stand day. We must stand in my
generation. We must stand for equality. We must stand for justice. We
must stand like those stood before us because we still live in a country
where anything is possible.
But as King said, change will not roll in on the wheels of inevitability.
So me must straighten our backs, stand together and join together until
indeed our nation becomes one where the call of the conscience of children
coast to coast, where they say that profound pledge, when we make those
words not aspirational but true in our land, that America is a country
truly for all of his children, her children, that we are truly a nation
with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very nice, Cory.
New York`s Mayor Cory Booker, also the Democratic nominee for the U.S.
We are now going to hear from Steny Hoyer.
Steny Hoyer is the chair and ranking Democrat in the U.S. Congress.
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Fifty years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin
Luther King stood here and put into mighty words the hopes, the dreams, the
frustrations of million of Americans, black and white, that the people of
this land were not yet fully free and none could enjoy our democracy until
all could enjoy it.
We all know the famous words, the dream he shared of placing disdain over
brotherhood. His speech was a resonating call to action, one that impelled
me and millions to channel our own commitment for civil rights into a life
of activism for justice and equality.
But what calls us here once more was the pronouncement that Dr. King made
and he said 1963 is not an end, but a beginning.
That`s what Cory Booker was talking about. America today has much to be
proud of in no small part thanks to Dr. King and my friend John Lewis and
countless others who wrote, spoke out, stood up, marched, bled, languished
in jail, sat in and endured what Dr. King called creative suffering. The
historic election of President Obama testifies to the progress we have made
which would not have been possible if not for the millions who sacrificed
and raised their voices for change.
But we are here, all of us, here to declare that we shall not rest nor
shall we be satisfied by the way things now stand. Too many of our people
still inhabit islands of poverty and inequality. Too many despair at fewer
opportunities to find good jobs that pay well and provide their families
with a chance to reach the middle class. Too many have no voice in our
democracy because they are told they have no valid ID with which to vote or
they have to choose between going to work or to the polls today.
We will not rest. That is our pledge today. It was our pledge in 1963,
and a half century later, we renew that pledge. Let us march on.
God bless you.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. That was Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and
ranking Democrat here in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I want to come back to something you said, Taylor, where you suggested that
the march was part of a movement that was interested in the fundamental
questions of democracy, not just legislative action, but fundamental
questions of democracy.
What do you see as the fundamental questions -- Oh, excuse -- I`m sorry.
We`ll have to pause for just a moment because Democratic Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi is now going to address the crowd.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Hello, everyone.
As a member of the leadership of the Congress of the United States, it is
my official privilege to welcome so many of you to Washington, D.C., to the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I join my colleagues and associate myself with the remarks of those from
Congress who have spoken before me. That`s officially. Personally, it is
my very personal pleasure to be here with each and every one of you because
I was here 50 years ago.
So, who among you is going to be the speaker of the House, the president of
the United States or whatever. You`re a beautiful sight to behold, and at
that time 50 years ago we heard Dr. King inspire us with the "I Have a
Dream" part of his speech, the part that though was the call to action was
the fierce urgency of now part of his speech. In that time, Dr. King says
we refused to take the tranquility drug of gradualism.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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