WASHINGTON — As crowds swelled against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, activists spoke of a generational moment.
The Commitment March, held in support of racial justice amid nationwide protests against police brutality, was itself an echo of an earlier generation’s struggle for equality.
Fifty-seven years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told an audience of more than 200,000 in the same space that America’s promise of equal rights under the law rang hollow for Black Americans, thousands of people rallied to protest continuing shortfalls of justice in the United States.
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” Dr. King said in 1963. “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”
To many who assembled in Washington on Friday, little had changed. But given the urgency of the moment, many attendees, some of whom had traveled from far-flung corners of the country, said their presence was aimed not only at expressing their own support for change, but also at inspiring another generation: their children.
“When I was her age, I participated in a march for fair and equal housing. To see us so many decades later still marching — it’s celebratory yet disheartening to say the least.”
Erica Carrington, with her husband, Antoine, and daughter, Antoinette
“They keep telling me about how it’s a shame that Black parents have to have ‘the conversation’ with our children, how we have to explain if a cop stops you, don’t reach for the glove compartment, don’t talk back, the conversation,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a speech at the event on Friday. “Well, we’ve had the conversation for decades.”
“It’s time we have a conversation with America,” he said.
“Through this experience, I just want them to know the importance of standing up for what’s right. I want them to really know the importance of voting. I’m raising two black boys, and I want my children to live in a better America.”
Stephanie Watkins, center right, with her family
Though the march was partly dedicated to George Floyd, who was 46 when he was killed by the police in Minneapolis in May, many attendees also spoke of younger victims of recent violence, such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, who were in their 20s when they were killed this year.
Some said they feared for their children’s future.
“We see a lot of violence and hate on TV, but there are a lot of people who have love, and they want to have peace. So we’re here fighting for that.”
Anna Brown, with her husband, Dimitrius, and daughters Favianna and Aracely
“I think it’s important for young people of color to know that they stand on the shoulders of giants. This country was built on the blood of our ancestors. It’s a constant battle, and the day you stop fighting is the day it’s over, the day democracy dies.”
Latasha Edwards, left, with her son, Chase, and mother, Glenda