The NAACP’s Virtual March on Washington marks the 57th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his legendary I Have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
The two-day event starting August 27, 2020 is broken up into three sections: The Call, The March and The Charge.
Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, politician and activist Stacey Abrams, criminal justice activist Dr. Yusef Salaam, who was one of the Central Park Five, and former HBCU president Dr. Johnnetta Cole, are just a few of the voices that will be a part of the virtual march. Beginning at 8 p.m. on Aug. 27, participants can expect to address and reflect on the current uprising and how it ties back to the sentiments of the historic March on Washington.
“This will bring people together in a way that is informative, community building, uplifting and reflective,” said NAACP Senior VP of Marketing and Communications Aba Blankson.
For the Black community, these last few months have been difficult. There’s the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on the African American community. In the middle of the pandemic, there were the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
On Aug. 28, the NAACP will live stream the National Action Network’s Commitment March on Washington which was called by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III during a memorial service for George Floyd. The live march is intergenerational and will focus on police accountability, voter mobilization and the census. Like the original 1963 march, the live march will be held at the Lincoln Memorial and proper social distancing measures will be practiced.
“This live march will feature the voices of folks who will really energize and inspire us,” said Blankson.
After the live march, the NAACP will host a virtual program called The Charge, which is projected to have about 100,000 participants. Political analyst April Ryan will moderate the virtual march. It will feature virtual programming panels that will bridge connections between the current protests/uprisings and the historic March on Washington.
Panelists include Tamika Mallory, Ms. Foundation for Women’s Teresa Younger and actress Vanessa Williams. NAACP board member Reverend William J. Barber II will deliver the keynote address. And there will be performances by gospel legend BeBe Winans, recording artist Lisa Ramey and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Fittingly, Congressman John Lewis, who died in July at the age of 80, will be honored. Lewis was the youngest speaker at the original march in 1963.
“People always think that the movement is made up of 50- and 60-year-olds, but it’s actually not, it has always been 19-to-20-year-olds,'' said Blankson.
“It has always been the young people that drive the movement and this is the time to hear from them in terms of what this means moving forward and the different kinds of things that we want to fight for today.”
The virtual march comes right after the Democratic and Republican conventions and creates the perfect opportunity to start talking about the Black agenda. The major focus of the virtual march is to drive people to the polls said Blankson. The march will also address voter suppression, police reform and student debt.
“It’s not about political parties, it's about what we as the African-American community want to see moving forward. We need to have the kind of people in place in the federal and local government to make those necessary changes,” said Blankson. “For example, in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, it was the D.A. that decided not to take up the case initially.”
In addition to social media, the virtual march website will be a space for participants to watch and engage. Coming out of the march, Blankson says, is the hope that people will register to vote, vote and complete the census. It’s an opportunity to transition from protest to policy and ultimately the power to change communities.
“The result of John Lewis and many others marching in Selma was the Voting Rights Act, and the result of the original March on Washington was the Civil Rights Act,” said Blankson. “The passing of George Floyd and many other innocent Black men and women must result in something greater than we can ever conceive of.”