[Note: The "Redeem the Dream" rally, commemorating the 37th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and focusing on police brutality and racial profiling, was held at the Lincoln Memorial on August 26, 2000. It featured Martin Luther King III, Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP Executive Director Kweisi Mfume, and Coretta Scott King. As The Washington Post reported the following day, "After the keynote speakers finished, the stage was turned over to lesser known speakers who engaged in fiery rhetoric. They included Malik Shabazz of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and Benjamin Mohammed of the Nation of Islam." The following was written by GLAA member and Public Safety chair Rick Rosendall. He wrote the letter as an individual; it is not an official statement by GLAA.]
Rosendall criticizes "Redeem the Dream" organizers
Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
Friday, September 1, 2000; Page A26
At the March
The failure of the "Redeem the Dream" organizers to draw the 100,000 people they hoped for on Aug. 26 should not be attributed solely to apathy [Metro, Aug. 27]. The message of the original March on Washington 37 years ago was challenging but also positive. This time, Martin luther King Jr.'s widow and children shared the stage with people he specifically warned the nation against.
In his famed letter from Birmingham City Jail on April 16, 1963, Dr. King wrote: "I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is complacency. . . . The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. This movement is nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable 'devil.' "
Dr. King's letter was addressed to white clergymen, warning them that if they refused to support nonviolent efforts, "millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead to a frightening racial nightmare."
Many white clergy and others did indeed join Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial later that year. Now, claiming to honor his memory and legacy, his widow and children participate in a rally featuring the divisive and hateful rhetoric of the Nation of Islam--a group he specifically warned against--and the likes of Al Sharpton and Malik Shabazz.
As a gay civil rights activist who stood up to my own father's racism as a child, and who in recent years has served as a member of the NAACP-D.C. Police Task Force, I was sorry that I could not in good conscience participate in a rally featuring such hatemongers. I was sorry that its organizers chose such a divisive path.
If the organizers of this event want to reach a wider circle of Americans--if they truly want to combat police brutality and racial profiling, rather than merely talk to themselves--then they should consider the possibility that so many people stayed away because of a wholesome distrust of the divisive and hateful persons and organizations with whom the King family now chooses to ally itself.
RICHARD J. ROSENDALL