According to two noted political observers, the Washington rally planned for this weekend by the often-raucous cable TV commentator Glenn Beck has nothing to do with restoring honor to the nation’s capital.
“It’s taking a slap at the movement in a way consistent with what the tea party has done,” said Ron Walters, retired University of Maryland political analyst.
“They really want to dishonor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1963 to give it a conservative spin,” he continued, describing Beck’s effort as a “White Nationalist Movement.”
Michael Fauntroy, public policy professor at George Mason University, agreed, adding that “Beck’s Aug. 28 march is a disgrace to King’s memory.
“That’s a date that should be held sacred in the Civil Rights Movement,” Fauntroy said. “Glenn Beck is not about bringing the country together, and he’s way out of line trying to take over and reshape the way we talk about Blacks.”
However, Glenn’s event, which includes a book launch, is being countered by a commemoration set at the District’s Dunbar Senior High School, marking the 47th anniversary of King’s legendary march on the National Mall where more than 250,000 people heard his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
The commemoration is being organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, and has mobilized a contingent of progressive leaders, clergy and nationally syndicated Black radio talk show hosts and other activists from across the country to “reclaim” King’s dream.
Though Beck admitted he had no idea Aug. 28 was the same date as the famous March on Washington, he said in an interview with another news outlet that it wouldn’t stop him from proclaiming the coincidence as “divine providence.”
Beck, who touts himself as a conservative American thinker, began plans for his rally late last year, scheduling it to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and the horrific murder 55 years ago of 14-year-old Emmet Till for whistling at a White woman.
According to his website, while the gathering is supposed to be a nonpolitical celebration of America, it has the backing of the National Rifle Association and lists Sarah Palin among its primary speakers.
Beck plans to follow up the rally with an event at the Kennedy Center that will reportedly include uplifting music and messages of hope, healing and faith from nationally-known religious figures, reminiscent of speeches conveyed during civil rights struggles.
While leaders such as activist Dick Gregory and the Rev. Timothy Mc Donald of the Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta contend Beck lacks the fortitude to engage in civil rights for Blacks, Walters pointedly said Beck is not worthy of the date he chose to reach out to the masses. “I think that’s what people ought to understand,” said Walters.
Sharpton pointed out in a commentary circulated by the NNPA that in studying the intense struggle for civil rights in this nation, people “quickly – and rightfully –” find themselves analyzing the life and legacy of King.
“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,” Sharpton said. “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 as he knew it, was the only effective tool to ensure a unified system of equality in every state.”
Echoing Walters’ sentiments, Sharpton – who referred to Beck’ gathering as a mere disturbance – said that the show host and the tea party are attempting to tarnish the legacy of the 1963 march. But he said that in light of the Dunbar rally, King’s loyal legion of supporters won’t allow that to happen.
“We will not give credence to this distraction,” said Sharpton, “for that’s all it is.