This article is part of The Root Institute 2023 pre-event coverage.
Sixty years after the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one could easily argue that the clock has begun to turn backward. The Supreme Court has successfully eroded decades of precedent protecting marginalized groups. And authoritarianism and white supremacy appear as deeply rooted as ever.
But even in the midst of what feels to many like our darkest hour, Dr. Bernice King says we need to keep fighting. “My father spoke about it as a part of a multi-generational process,” Dr. King told The Root, referencing her late father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “The things that we are fighting for, in some form or fashion, we’re always going to have to fight for them.”
The Root spoke with Dr. King in the wake of the anniversary of the first March on Washington. And while it would have been easy to opine on the ground that’s been lost, the CEO of the King Center urged action instead.
“There’s always the contrast between light and dark... if there’s not vigilance, you will lose ground, and the backlash will always come because just as you’re working for good, there are those working to undermine that,” said Dr. King. “That is the nature of the world.”
That’s why it’s the responsibility of each generation to pick up the mantle, she says. “As my mother said, we have to be committed to fighting in this freedom struggle from generation to generation,” said Dr. King. “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”
However, the necessity of vigilance doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate how far we’ve come, argues Dr. King. “The work that daddy and them did laid a strong foundation,” says King, “We didn’t have civil rights provisions and protections in 1963 when the March on Washington occurred... so we have to think about [the fact that] we have made tremendous progress on these grounds.”
In the rest of our multi-part conversation with Dr. King, we discuss reparations, a path forward, and the weight of being the child of the two most iconic civil rights leaders in our nation’s history. You can check out part two here.