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March on Washington — By Karen Curry Fifty years ago, thousands converged on the Nationa l Mall in

Washington, DC, to raise a collective voice against racial violence and to fearlessly demand jobs and justice for all Americans. Fifty years ago, when my mother boldly took a day off from work to join the march, I was not even a glimmer in her eye. Now, 50 years later, my mother and I stood proudly together on the National Mall along with my husband and children, representing three generations of an African-American family living out much of what Martin Luther King, Jr. and others only dreamed about. Then and now, a question loomed in the back of some minds regarding the March on Washington, “So what? Why march?” To really understand why people march, participate in one— the purpose quickly becomes self-evident. Marching for a common cause creates an energy, a synergy, a unity and an unparalleled ability to affect change. Marching together in the nation’s capital sends a message to all of the United States and to all the world that the causes being marched for are expansive in their impact and too weighty or egregious to be ignored. Most importantly, the common causes that were espoused in the original and the commemorative marches on Washington were exactly what God calls us to vociferously defend: “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the affl icted and

needy.” (Psalm 82:3) “Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness.” (Ezekiel 45:8-9) “… neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21) “…Neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger.” (Leviticus 19:10) “… let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Note, these are not calls for sympathy and passivity; It’s not enough to simply feel bad about injustice. God calls us to direct action, and angrily laments when we fail to act: “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth….” (Isaiah 59:4)

According to Strong’s Concordance “calleth” means to plead,

to cry out, to utter a loud sound, to summon, commission. One defi nition even conveys the idea of accosting a person. It all describes perfectly the very essence of a march – a loud pleading, summoning, a fi gurative hands-on shaking up of those in position to “do justice to the affl icted and needy” as God has so charged us all.

Neither of the marches required 100 percent agreement on 100 percent of the issues, rather they created opportunities for people to put aside their differences,

Karen Curry, an ordained Baptist pastor, is a teacher, writer, editor, poet and a popular blogger at www. revkarencurry. and provides communications consulting services.


and for one incredible, miraculous moment to come together on one accord about what they do agree on. Outside of worship, it is one of the closest things to an Acts 2:1 moment that we can ever experience. Those weary feet that stood on the National Mall 50 years ago carried weary hearts, weary minds, and weary spirits that were refreshed and energized by collective hopes and united pleas. I hear the curious and the cynical again asking, “So what?” Well, how about we change the question to “Sow what?” Each marcher’s fi rmly planted step sowed beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning and peace for despair. Among the fi rst things to sprout from what was sown in the 1963 march was passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which removed the cruel, blatantly racist barriers that prevented African- Americans from voting. The most recent seed to sprout was the election of President Barack Obama, the nation’s fi rst African- American President. “Sow what?”

The power of the original and commemorative marches sowed enough strength in the participants to “push open those stubborn gates” of racism as President Bill Clinton described them, reminding us that we must push on because “America is always on a journey…we all have to run our lap.” “Sow what?” The

2013 commemorative marches sowed seeds of

remembrance as one generation recounted to the next how God moved mountains to make way for what many of us take for granted today. “They came to Washington so we could come today…We owe them for what we have today,” Al Sharpton explained.

The commemorative march allowed a new generation to say, in accord with Psalm 44:1, “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, [what] work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” Lest we believe that yesterday’s victories means tomorrow is care free, Bernice King, Dr. King’s youngest child, explained that “inherent social biases…often degenerate into violence” when left unchallenged, warning “if freedom stops crying, the sound will disappear and the atmosphere will be charged with something else.”

“Sow what?” We march in order to sow into the next generation what is

needed for the next, and to prevent “something else” from sprouting up, eroding the harvest, and destroying us all.

Karen Curry (right) with her family at the 50th Anniversary of the March


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