FREEDOM ’63 REMIXED
Legacies of the March on Washington - Schomburg Center, Harlem
On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of people led by Martin Luther King demonstrated in Washington, DC against racial segregation and racism. To mark the 50th Anniversary of this outstanding “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office organized a major event in Harlem on August 16, 2013. 400 people, including more than a dozen marchers from 1963, came to “Freedom ’63 Remixed” at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the world’s largest library on Black Culture.
The evening was built around dialogues between civil rights veterans and younger movement activists and artists. Program and audience both reflected the diversity of the progressive community in New York City. The evening started with a rousing performance of “freedom songs” by the New Day Church Worship team. Albert Scharenberg, co-director of RLS–NYC, introduced the evening and spoke on the importance of the legacy of the March and the work of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Kazembe Balagun, project manager at RLS–NYC, served as Master of Ceremonies.
The guest of honor for the evening was Dick Gregory, who opened the evening with his usual biting humor (watch the video on our Media Page). Gregory, a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not only participate in the March on Washington, but also in numerous acts of civil disobedience. Gregory was given a standing ovation.
The first dialogue was between Jeanne Theoharis, author of The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks (2013), and Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, who had been active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. The focus of their conversation was the role of women in the movement. It is no coincidence, Theoharis and Simmons agreed, that to this day the fact that the vast majority of activists in the movement were women is systematically ignored.
The second dialogue featured Boots Riley, a well-known rapper (The Coup) and activist, and Dorothy Zellner, a March on Washington veteran who had also been active in SNCC. Riley talked about the social dimension of the sixties movement and criticized that today, even within the Left, the issue of class is too often pushed to the background. By citing parts of the original speech of SNCC leader John Lewis held, Dorothy Zellner pointed out that his message was censored – and in fact whitewashed – at the March on Washington itself.
Much to the amusement of the audience, the two comedians Hari Kondabolu and Dick Gregory held the third and final dialogue. They were able to combine their humor with the seriousness of the matter. Dick Gregory compared Martin Luther King to a turtle: hard on the outside, soft on the inside, and brave enough to stick out his neck out. Finally, he called on the attendees to persevere in the struggle for equal rights for African Americans and the social transformation of the United States. By all accounts, the audience left the evening feeling inspired.
Check out pictures from the event “Freedom ’63 Remixed”.
Watch the video of Dick Gregory’s opening speech on our Media Page.
Please note also the study on the March on Washington by Albert Scharenberg, co-director of the RLS-NYC.
An Evening of Dialogue Inspired from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
GWENDOLYN ZOHARAH SIMMONS
August 16, 2013 6:30 PM
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Langston Hughes Auditorium
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
Harlem, NY 10039
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