By Tilesha Brown, Special to the AFRO
ACT Now. Take a stand.
That was the order of the day.
And as thousands converged onto the National Mall in Washington, D.C. April 4 to rally for the end of racism, the organizers of this movement had no problem getting its crowd up and out of their seats, ready to move toward finding solutions. As music acts like Yolanda Adams and Marvin Sapp lifted the program with song, and speakers like DeRay McKesson and Danny Glover took the stage one after the other to stir the crowd toward action, the mall came alive.
Thousands braved cold, wet weather to attend the Rally to End Racism. (Photo by Rob Roberts)
The crowd even went wild for the famous White duo, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, as they reimagined their success story as entrepreneurs in the ice cream business, placing themselves in the shoes of two Black men trying to live the American dream.
Moving steadily for most of six hours, the event sustained its excitement from start to finish.
Flanked on one side by the U.S. Capitol and the other by the Washington Monument, some stood while some sat on blankets, lawn chairs, and park benches in the fog, rain, and wind into the afternoon.
Silent protesters walked around with signs speaking out against unemployment and systemic discrimination while the abundant sight of clergy collars alongside large congregations blended into a sea of more signs declaring support of Dr. King’s dream. Volunteers made their way through the crowd asking important questions like “Are you registered to vote?” and “Will you join this movement after the rally is over?” And the sound of agreement was everywhere.
At one point, the program had to be postponed because of a cold front that was moving quickly over the park, but after about 30 minutes, organizers resumed with more onlookers than were there before.
One look around the mall, and it was evident. People wanted to be a part of this piece of history. They wanted to be in the group that stood up against this proclaimed “stain” that speaker after speaker described as racism.
At the very end of the rally, keynote speaker Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie addressed the crowd in earnest, declaring that the time to take a stand is now. She sighted scenarios like those involving Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray as being evidence that action is needed to turn mere hashtags into law.
“You’ve heard of the Amber Alert, right? That came from the abduction and murder of Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas,” she told the audience.
McKenzie went on to list the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which stemmed from Adam Walsh’s violent death in Hollywood, Florida, and Mattie’s Call that came out of the disappearance of 66-year-old Mattiie Moore in Atlanta, as laws that came out of criminal issues plaguing a community.
“Let’s take a stand and move from hashtags to create the laws that make sure that this stuff don’t happen again,” she charged, “We need a Tamir Rice law, and a Trayvon Martin law, and a Parkland Students law to protect our students and to protect our communities.”
Bishop W. Darin Moore, chair of the NCC, followed McKenzie, taking to the podium to make perfectly clear that this rally is just the beginning. He challenged the congregations present to think of themselves as the body of Christ and racism as a wound in its foot. He said he is suspicious of anyone who calls themselves a part of the church, yet doesn’t move to heal a wound in the body of Christ. This movement, he shouted, will be the answer.
“Racism, in 2018, has met its match,” he declared, to thunderous applause.
And as if to convey the sincerity of his declaration, he held his infant grandson up in his arms and passionately promised that 50 years from now, he would not have to deal with the racism we know today.
With that, the crowd left understanding just how much work still needs to be done.