Who’s Coming to the March on Washington?

Some will come to celebrate and commemorate. Many will arrive with hopes of reinvigorating a movement.

Protesters in favor of the Voting Rights Act at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Protesters in favor of the Voting Rights Act at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(The Root) — With just 11 days left on the calendar before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Americans are busy readying themselves to converge on the nation’s capital.

Kim Moore, 28, is a consultant who lives in the San Diego area. She said she’s reached a phase in her life where she’s ready to move beyond “talking and the marching.” She wants to turn to direct and strategic action that will force some of the changes she feels are critical to the country’s social and economic health.

At the top of Moore’s list of concerns: the sky-high 13 percent black unemployment rate, policies such as Florida’s “Stand your ground” and New York’s stop and frisk and the litany of voting changes in states such as North Carolina that imperil the ability of people of color to shape the nation’s laws.

“There are several reasons I wanted to be sure that I was at the March on Washington,” said Moore. She added that unfair school discipline practices that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline are also high on her list of issues she’s interested in solving. “But the main reason, the primary reason, is really the state of black America today.”

In the decades since the August 1963 day that hundreds of thousands of men and women gathered on the National Mall and listened to Martin Luther King Jr. offer an extemporaneous but elegant speech that would establish the civil rights struggle in the firmament of righteous American struggles, racial progress has ebbed and flowed. This month — a point in time when many people planning to attend say the country has receded to familiar and disturbingly unjust terrain — some will come to Washington, D.C., with plans to do nothing more than celebrate and commemorate the events of August 1963. But many will arrive with hopes of reinvigorating a movement.

Moore, for instance, will fly to D.C. several days before the Aug. 28 anniversary of the original march. She will divide her time among as many events, speeches, panel discussions and gatherings of activists as possible. She hasn’t left California yet but admits to already feeling pulled in a number of directions and unsure when she will sleep.

Taking on a Conservative Legislative Force

One of the central protest activities that marchers will attend is a rally at the D.C. offices of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the think tank and lobbying organization that is behind some of the most conservative public policies of the last decade. Activists across the country have discussed their plans over Twitter in the weeks and months leading up to the march.

Indeed, ALEC counts some of the nation’s largest corporations among its current and former members. The organization encouraged its members to draft so-called model legislation to create what it says are conditions advantageous to its members, then lobby state legislators around the country to introduce the bills and move them toward becoming actual state policy. ALEC was the driving force behind the spread of Florida-style “Stand your ground” legislation to nearly three dozen states and the proliferation of voter-ID laws expected to make it difficult, if not impossible, for hundreds of thousands of Americans to vote.