George H. Lambert Jr., President and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League. (Courtesy Photo)

The 13th day of the 12th month of this year had an accidental meaning as 12/13/14, but beyond this numerological oddity, the date took on real political meaning. Marchers across the United States came together to protest the acquittals of the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I had the honor of participating in both the D.C. and New York City marches on the same day.

In Washington, I joined our dynamic  Thursday Network (young professionals auxiliary) who support the Greater Washington Urban League. The mood on Constitution Avenue was determined and enthusiastic. And yet there was a pervasive sense of dread in the air.

I heard over and over again that marchers were there because they knew that what happened to Michael Brown could happen to their own kids, friends or neighbors. These conversations made me realize once again what a singular challenge it is in our society to especially be the parent of a person of color. The fear is never far from your mind. Every time the phone rings, the possibility of bad news is present.

You can see photos of the “Justice for All” Washington, D.C. march on our Facebook page.

Afterwards, I flew to New York and hopped in a cab that serendipitously got caught up in protest traffic, which made it easy to get out and join the participants on foot. It was dark. It was cold. But our glowing hearts kept us warm.

Both demonstrations were eloquent in their peaceful insistence on systemic change. We marched to demand “equal protection under laws” as promised by the Fourteenth Amendment. It should go without saying that this right extends to enforcement of the law in the District’s Ward 7, on the streets of Ferguson, or anywhere in this great country.

You don’t have to be Black to realize that something is seriously wrong when unarmed individuals are dying at the hands of the people whose very mission is to serve and protect. Consequently, I was encouraged but not surprised to see so many White people at the demonstrations.  It will take people of all colors, ages, and abilities to sustain the energy of 12/13/14 and to realize the justice and accountability spelled out in the Fourteenth Amendment. This is the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement.

Justice for All

Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue toward Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the Justice for All rally. More than 10,000 protesters are converging on Washington in an effort to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. Civil rights organizations are holding a march to the Capitol on Saturday with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

I am haunted by the notion that we may never stop marching. In my lifetime I have seen the election of an African-American president. But in the lifetime of my children and grandchildren will they know an America where we can stop marching?

Others have written extensively about the specific policy changes that are necessary to avoid more unnecessary deaths. My counterpart in Baltimore, J. Howard Henderson, offers some reasonable suggestions. Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, has put forth a realistic, compelling 10-point plan for justice. At the very least, these tragedies have spurred an overdue national dialogue.

We have our work cut out for us. The solutions lie not only in revised police procedures but in reconsidered economic and political structures. The board and leadership of the National Urban League and all its regional affiliates are committed to working toward a more just society. We won’t stop until everybody has the opportunity to reach his or her potential—and until nobody has to fear an encounter between their child and a police officer.

As our families gather for the holiday season and we prepare ourselves for a New Year, let us embrace the dread and the determination of the protests with new energy to confront injustices within, and surrounding our community. Let us nourish the flame of 12/13/14 into 2015 and beyond. January brings the inauguration of a new mayor of Washington, D.C., and a new governor of Maryland, and with these new beginnings come new chances and new challenges.

George H. Lambert Jr. is the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League.