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Rev Al Sharpton – reclaiming the dream

Sharpton: reclaiming the dream

Forty-seven years after the historic March on Washington, Reverend Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network and leaders from his over 47 National Action Network chapters across the country, along with heads of progressive organizations, unions and clergy, will lead a mass rally and march in Washington, DC on Saturday, August 28, 2010 to RECLAIM THE DREAM.

Joining NAN will be a cross-section of organizations and principals including, but not limited to: National Action Network (NAN); United States Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Martin Luther King, III,  President, Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc.; Ed Schultz, Television and radio show host; Tom Joyner, The Tom Joyner Morning Show & Reach Media; Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League; Benjamin Todd Jealous, President of NAACP;  Melanie L. Campbell, President of National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable; representatives from Media Matters, and many other religious groups, labor unions, and organizations.

While the conservative tea party members and right wing TV host Glenn Beck will attempt to hijack the dream, at the same time civil rights activists will convene at Dunbar High School to shed light upon key issues that have diminished the dream. 
As we prepare to mark the 47th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech on this date, Glenn Beck and others are expected to push for the expansion of states’ rights – the exact antithesis of the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy.

According to Rev. Al Sharpton and NAN, when we study the intense struggle for civil rights, we quickly – and rightfully – find ourselves analyzing the life and legacy of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  We learn of his tireless efforts to achieve equality and justice for all of humanity, as we pass on legends of sit-ins, marches and boycotts to our children. But what we as a collective sometimes forget to impress upon the next generation is the depth to which Dr. King was an advocate the position that the federal government as he knew it was the only effective tool to ensure a unified system of equality in every state.

Rev Al Sharpton issued the following statement rejecting the attempt by Glen Beck to hi jack the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King…

‘Too many Black people died so that we can have the relative freedoms we enjoy today and live in harmony with other people. Far too many people of African heritage and others from all walks of life suffer today due to poverty, bigotry and violence.

It is a failure on the part of the living when we allow our ancestral giants to be miniaturized and their spirits made into harmless images for commercial use and instruments of pacification.

It is a huge mission, but I ask us to begin with a small task. We do MLK Day a little different with a message closer to his own. I close with Dr. King’s words from his most famous speech. Words you will seldom see or hear unless you read or listen to the speech in its entirety.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: “For Whites Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Today, the right wing Tea Party and allied conservatives are trying to break that national stance on justice and, in turn, break the crux of what the civil rights movement symbolized and what Dr. King fought and literally died for. No one day was more important than that day forty-seven years ago when world stood still and heard the dream eloquently spoken by Dr. King. Event participants will Reclaim the Dream on Saturday, August 28th 2010.


10 Responses

  1. Dr. Martin Luther King would have been personally ashamed of Operation Black vote and many other Black focused organisations as they fly in the face of everything that he tried to teach. They besmirch his name and memory.

    Martin Luther King tried to teach people that all human beings have greater similarities than differences. He also tried to instill the idea that all human beings have the same needs and hurts and that empathy was the key to a tolerant, cohesive and happy society.

    He tried to reach out and tell people that racial tolerance problems were simply a device used by humans to attack and achieve self-serving ends.

    “I’m not a communist. I’m a populist. I believe that blacks and poor whites should join to do something about the big shots who keep us divided.”

    He believed that people should be helped on the basis of the common elements such as: need.

    Martin Luther King did not try to teach people to join collectivist groups; he did the opposite. He would have wanted you, for example, to truely focus on helping all the poor and not to focus on the Black poor.

    He would abhor the idea of focusing inwardly on one’s self image with regards to others when seeking to do business or receive justice. This is why he would hate the idea of focusing on how many black MPs are in parliament. He would think that completely regressive and probably selfish.

    He did not believe that any people deserved to claim special needs when they did not have any. Nobody of any groupings should use inferiority or superiority complexes. He believed that these would create a divisive society.

    He would not believe in the collectivist (Black) protectionism that Operation Black Vote tries to promote or the subjective, begrudged and highly oppinionated material it provides to readers. He did not teach such things.

    Martin Luther King would believe that Operation Black vote was creating a divisive and hostile society that would create the very problems he campaigned to fight against.

    He claimed himself not to be a ‘Black Champion’, but one of many people who were all fighting to bring people together. Please do not make the memory of this man appear to care only for a few. He cared for all and every organisation should represent the caring for all. Operation Black Vote seems to care only for Black people. Martin Luther King taught that such ideas were foolish.

    I am sure he would believe that Operation Black Vote should just be Operation Vote.

    Would you allow his message to help cure America only for the the disease of intolerence and perjudice to spread to Britain?

    People need to stop creating organisations that inherently exclude people. Such ideas cause apartheid regimes, segregation and human unhappiness. They are jeopardising the important work that Martin Luther King did. Please do not dishonour his memory.

    He had a dream; nobody would like to see Operation Black Vote might turn it into a nightmare.

    • Joshua,

      I urge to revisit the work and ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was not in any way ignorant of the realities of race as a factor that denied full citizenship with all its rights AND responsibilities. Trying to ignore race, particularly in the American context, a country that has the matter of race woven into into its history from the genesis of the USA right till now, is not going to help better the opportunity for justice and progress. The same principle applies here. We all have a responsibility to better this union and I think one of the fundamental ways of doing this is by speaking on behalf of the people who share your experience. I think the piece that you have written here (reading all your responses) is a clear example of something that haunts us as British society, that is a negation of historical context- have a look at the history of the word Black (in the political context of Britain and the way it was willingly employed by ‘minorites’ to define a unified struggle and identity) and you may have an idea of why it is important that OBV was named as such and how unifying it is that it continues to be called OPERATION BLACK VOTE.

      The work that OBV does with Black people- people of African, Caribbean, Asian, Middle Eastern ( and I have been aware of work they have carried out with people of S. American descent) is imperative for the betterment of this nation. Dr King was NOT working for some abstract aim of ‘entire tolerance or utopia’ he was campaigning for CONCRETE change for African Americans. Voting rights, improved housing conditions, workers rights, desegregated schooling. All tangible hindrances to the achievement of full equality, it was through his ability to recognise the stark realities haunting his own people that he was able to be demonstrate compassion ( the ability to suffer with) towards other marginilised groups in the US and abroad- White working class, ex colonised groups in Asia and Africa etc.

      OBV has played a fundamental role at bettering the Union of Great Britian by bringing the hardships and inequalities of Black people to the fore and coupling this with policy recommendations and active programmes to help improve intergration. I for one hope it continues to do so under the wonderful and all encompassing name of OBV.

      We cannot ignore race, that does not make it go away, it simply creates further room for hatred stemmed from misunderstanding.

      kind Regards,


      • Good comment R.S very aptly made.

      • Ok; how do you know that anybody is Black?

        How Black do they have to be for OBV to help them?

        I can call myself African-British if I want because every human being on this Earth is descended from one man a long time ago. Only his kids survived and that would make us all related.

        We can call ourselves whatever we want. It doesn’t make it apt.

        You organise yourselves into a group based on social identification in order to achieve whatever goal you might have. There is no real ‘race’ argument. Being ‘Black’ is beside the point.

        If people continue to organise themselves in exclusive groups then we will have a divided society. The motto of society will be “Your either with us or against us”. Exclusion is not an option. You also do not appear to recognise, or care for, any other people’s sensitivities.

        Regarding Dr King and civil rights, he simply wanted to end the institutional civil segregation. He couldn’t have even begun to fight for socialism, of which you have made extreme, without desegregation. You have devolved the socialist ideology into tribalist political brooding. I wonder if your organisation will ever be satisfied, or patient for that matter. Luther King believed in Populism (getting the majority of society on your side and including laws that benefit everyone). This means representing everyone. He did not believe in creating organisations that are focused of fighting by themselves and, primarily, focusing on self-representation and benefit. He also claimed to be just one of many people campaigning, on behalf of those they represented, in order to end segregation. Asian people are quite disgruntled about their lack of representation, within the history books, about their struggle. But we are not in America so such things are beside the point.

        Your organisation, by focusing on elevating the few (stop focusing on the colour of skin of an MP, it is childish, petty, nonsensical and should be made redundant) will most likely, if not already, end up forsaking the many, thus showing signs of elitism.

        I believe it is your job to provide some tangible examples of how ‘black’ people face such radically different challenges from any other person within our society. I admit that people, immigrants e.t.c, may find themselves in difficult situations but this NEVER a direct result of their ‘race’ I have yet to see such tangible examples.

        Show me some examples, perhaps institutional racism,… that aren’t just beside the point. This organisation can be so pretentious at times.

  2. Joshua.

    “Dr. Martin Luther King would have been personally ashamed of Operation Black vote and many other Black focused organisations as they fly in the face of everything that he tried to teach. They besmirch his name and memory”

    It is for none of us to speculate on MLK’s perspective as to what he may or may not have thought about Operation Black Vote.

    My guess is that given that we are a considerable distance from seeing a Parliament that reflects Britain, he would agree with the aims and the motives reflected in the schemes OBV runs to tackle under-representation.

    I think he’d agree that seeing a fairer society is important for all people irrespective of colour. A white child benefits as much from seeing an inclusive society as a Black child.

    Of course we are all human first and foremost before our colour.

    MLK argued that if we are all equal then no one should be denied the right to pursue their destiny because of their skin colour.

    The scales of inequality have been tilted for so long that until the gross imbalance is addressed we do not have the luxury of assuming we already live in a politcal utopia that we have not reached.

    Your response to this article makes the assumption we as a society have already reached such a utopia and that we live in a post racially polarized political system.

    We don’t.

    I agree in an ideal World we would not need an Operation Black Vote.

    We have not reached that ideal yet.

    This is why OBV continues to receive support and recognition from all major political parties, as they acknowledge we have some way to go before we have democracy that is reflective of wider society and not a politcal elite. They acknowledge the work we do-there is no other campaign to deal with the black democratic deficit.

    Class is a factor, but ask yourself which groups consistently find them selves at the bottom of this scale?

  3. What I am basically trying to say is that any collectivist organisation, including Operation Black Vote, will cause the very polarised political system that it is apparently aiming to solve or avoid. It is one huge paradox.

    I would argue that in order to reach an ideal world, we do not need Operation Black Vote.

    I think we will probably always live in a society of self-interest. Operation Black Vote unfortunately derives from that self-interest in the same way that racism derives from self-interest.

    We need to break the cycle of self-interest by properly educating how excessive self-interest can lead to problems for everybody; including the self.

    If you want to help society, stop thinking about yourselves (or yourselves as a group) and think about other people for once who are not part of your group.

    If you just looked around for once you would see that people are at the lower end of the stick for many chaotic excuses but ultimately it derives from self-interest.

    Operation Black Vote practices institutional racism. It says so in it’s name. It is a racially motivated organisation.

    Talk of a Black democratic deficit is just simply absurd. It cannot be defined or calculated in an individualistic, democratic, way and is therefore an illogical statement. Who scientifically constitutes as Black? Nobody does because it is a relative and subjective idea created by human beings. Such an idea cannot be proven by any means.

    Martin Luther King did not like such things because he thought they would lead to the ruin of all. He said so when he was alive.

  4. Joshua, in the history of emancipation, be that slavery, colonialism, the suffrage movement, or just plain racism, those who were/are acutely affected by it must to lead the charge. History has also shown us that the, ‘we are all in this together’ mysteriously maintains the unequal status quo.

    It is also a shame that you miss the point that much of our work is to ensure we get BME representation into the mainstream, such as Her Majesty’s courts as magistrates, or councillors, MP’s, Judges, and of course voters.
    And just a small detail Joshua, that I know Dr King’s family including his son are proud of what we are doing, particularly in regards to voter registration.

    But I’m sure you’ll find more fault somewhere.


    Simon Woolley

  5. Dear Mr Woolley;

    I will not find different faults within this organisation. I see the same fundamental flaw that is manifested in different ways.

    I do understand the aim of Operation Black Vote and I accept that people can be undermined for a variety of reasons.

    I also understand that equality needs to be equal and that organisations should champion equality by the use of inclusion.

    I believe there is evidence that the current policies pursued by many minority group organisations will actually result in the exact problems that such organisations aim to achieve.

    I do not understand that, at a time of required political correctness, Operation Black Vote is wholly politically incorrect.

    The simple idea of Operation Vote would be much more politically correct. This organisation should encourage all people to vote and have an interest in politics. This is the best way for removing the political elite culture, which you speak of, and to provide better reform.

    At the moment this organisation predominantly aims to serve only a small fraction of society. Non-minority organisations are frowned upon, lobbied against, and can (and should) fall into disrepute. This leaves a great void where the majority of the population will end up under-represented. The social backdrop, or in extreme cases the law, will be used against them to stop them forming unions of expression.

    If I personally set-up Operation Vote I would make it my aim to serve everyone in society who can vote. I would attempt to teach them the theory, and benefits of, politics. Operation Black Vote currently appears to be limited in its potential by the practices of lobbying.

    If I were to serve everyone I would find that minorities had already been served by Operation Black Vote. In the interest of decreasing redundancy (and perhaps cost saving) I would perhaps not feel the need to serve these people. This would effectively have created ‘Operation White Vote’ (or, in the interest of political correctness, Operation non-minorities vote). This would cause a segregated society where different groups of individuals would be used to being served by different organisations and would therefore feel the need to flirt their differences in the interest of their own aims (the “I’m alright Jack” approach). They would be accustomed to be different. I would not wish for such a society but other people might create such an organisation.

    On the other hand, if I were to serve all people, there would almost certainly be an overlap and a conflict of interest between the two organisations with regards to the ‘Black community’. Such things would lead to differences, ideas of hostilities and ultimately a segregated form of society (the “Speak for yourself” approach)

    Such outcomes are but two sides of the same coin and they both lead to the very problems that most people in society are striving to prevent. Preventative measures for such outcomes should be unnoticeable in approach. After all, “If you do things right, people won’t believe you’ve done anything at all”.

    If you want to see a fairer representation of people with a more efficient form of government, you will have to get the majority of society on your side. This does include the ‘non-minorities’ I speak of. Otherwise, the majority of society will continue in the way that (you perceive) is a problem. The majority opinion of minorities could be worse of as they would perceive minority organisations and groups to not hold their interest at heart. All can speak for the few but the few simply cannot speak for all.

    Why do you think that more people voted for the BNP? Do you think that society has become more ‘nasty’? This kind of thinking will not bring people together or persuade the majority to your cause. I believe that, unfortunately, the ethos and militant undercurrents that this organisation maintains is one of the direct reasons for this surge. You are, essentially, driving people into the hands of the very people that you dislike. You will not achieve anything this way and neither will anybody else. One does not clear away a horse by flogging it.

    The overriding idea of a minority focus has already led to problems within the EHRC and OBV. The EHRC has suggested the ideas of Black Children being separated within school. It seems as if these organisations are being so overly-ambitious that the policies discussed are losing sight of reason.

    Trevor Phillips said: “If the only way to break through the wall of attitude that surrounds black boys is to teach them separately in some classes, then we should be ready for that,”. This idea rings the apartheid segregation bells in my head. I do not understand how the Equality and Human Rights Commission could have come up with an overtly unequal idea. In all brutal honesty, this idea is regressive and redundant. The policy should be to separate and provide preferential treatment for children who are struggling. Children who are Black and struggling are still just children struggling and therefore would receive the right support which I thought would be obvious. Perhaps these organisations have become too politically motivated; to the detriment of the quality of service. In the pursuit of true equality and justice, I would like to see OBV use its influence to discredit, what is, a racially motivated policy that is not in the interest of society. I’m sure everybody could agree on that.

    I believe it is in nobody’s interest for collectivist groups to continue as, in the eyes of pure objectivity, Operation Black Vote is in the same basket with its enemies. Do you believe you will get a Minority Prime Minister in this way? I don’t think such a thing would be achieved with the current course set, nor currently deserved (because people would be thinking “oh, there’s the party leader who was mostly interested in his own group, he would not look after my needs.” just like the current view of most political parties). Unfortunately you would only have yourselves to blame and you would be letting yourselves down.

    I do not mean to offend but, please heed my advice, do not go on continuing to look at issues in society through the lens filter of racism or seek the instant gratification of crying prejudice. I think most issues, disagreements and conflicts go beyond just these ideas.



  6. Thank you Joshua for your heartfelt thoughts. I would guess that on a number of issues we probably want the same goal, we just disagree on how to get there.
    And for sure you haven’t offended me in the slightest.

    I hope Joshua that you and many others that read our news pieces, and articles are informed, inspired and challenged as we often are at OBV.


  7. Mr Woolley;

    I have an idea to improve your organisation in order to improve its political correctness and eliminate any percieved racial collectivism motivated agendas.

    Operation ‘Minority’ Vote: The home of ‘Minority’ Politics

    If you continue with the Operation Black Vote name, the subjective adjective of ‘Black’ can easily be interchanged with any other adjective, including those that might offend.

    Changing the phrase to the noun, Minority, will make it much more difficult for others to use such an organisation name against you. Others could not facilitate racist slurs towards your organisation because any attempted change by them would not make literary sense and would therefore not work in their favour.

    You would be cutting down on anyone’s ability to commit racial insensitivities. At the same time, this organisation could include more people who would be considered an ethnic minority such as Romanians, Lithuanians, Polish communities and others. Others from more ‘westernised’ EU countries are also considered minorities. Anybody from outside the UK is generally considered a Minority unless they have a UK passport and citizenship, even then it might not always be easy. An American is also considered a minority, be they from North or South.

    Help give these people a voice. Prejudice can affect these people just as much as they prepare for a live within the UK. I would not like to see their voices ignored.

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