On this day, 50 years ago, one of the most significant movements in American history took place. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a catalyst for true change in the United States. Today, most will focus on the “I have a dream” speech given by one of my life’s heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., however, I’d like to focus on the part of the day and the movement that still rings real in me. See, the March on Washington was not just about the ugly stain of racism that had and unfortunately still has America in quite a bind; the march was about jobs and opportunity for ALL. Although it seems that my profession of economic development rarely speaks about this great March, as an economic developer, and as a student and beneficiary of the march on Washington, I just had to speak on it. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was an Economic Development march!
Economic development is about bringing together people and resources to advance and facilitate the most powerful force for change in a community… A job. It is quite ironic to me that on this day 50 years later, we are still fighting for jobs for everyone. And ironically enough, 50 years later we are still fighting for freedom. Not freedom to be Americans citizens in the legal sense, but we’re fighting for everyone to have the pursuit of success. Freedom to me is what the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said freedom was; education.
50 years later, we are involved in a knockdown, drag out fight for opportunities for jobs to continue to grow and for people to have the requisite skill sets to fill those jobs. I honor and respect the struggle that my forefathers waged so that I could not only have a job and be free from the shackles of lack of education, but I stand humbled and emboldened to continue the fight to grow jobs and to make sure that my children and the children in this community I love and call home continue to be free through the emancipation of power of education.
50 years later, to the exact day, I took my son to his kindergarten orientation. That experience warmed my soul as I reflected on the power of that visit. I stood in line to make sure that my son’s freedom was sure. His teachers, principal and other school officials now know that TJ is free, and we will be working with them as partners to ensure that he stays free throughout his learning experience. This type of presence and persistence is the call of the day! Let’s determine be present and persistent in our efforts to encourage people and companies to grow! Let’s be present and persistent in our willingness to suspend our political disagreements and bickering to come together again for jobs and freedom! Its our time! It’s 50 years later and its time to wind down this war will an all-out assault on negativity, bigotry, classism, racism, inequality and most of all…indifference. Its time to fight with the weapons of love, hope, compassion, freedom and a laser focus on growth!
As some of the old Saints used to say, “for as much as things have changed; they are still the same.” I am humbled and happy to be representing a fight that so many of my ancestors fought before me…the continual fight for jobs and freedom. May God shed his grace on this nation we call home, and give us the courage and focus to remain steady and undeterred in our efforts to grow jobs and to make sure that people are free through access to high-quality education!
Peace, Jobs and freedom,