Urban League speakers stress jobs, education

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (second from left) is presented with the Civil Rights Champion Award by (from left) the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Marc Morial, president of the Urban League.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis (second from left) is presented with the Civil Rights Champion Award by (from left) the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Marc Morial, president of the Urban League. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 28, 2013

Fifty years after the historic March on Washington, a panel of key black leaders in Philadelphia on Friday said the most important issues facing African Americans are the need for jobs, improvements in education, and preserving the right to vote.

At the National Urban League's conference at the Convention Center, leaders including the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial addressed those issues during a panel discussion entitled "50 Years and Marching On."

"Black unemployment has not decreased," Sharpton said after a question from the moderator, the journalist George Curry. "We must demand a Jobs Act."

Curry emphasized the importance of employment for African Americans, recalling that the full title of the 1963 march, which was led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Pointing to dilapidated housing in cities across the country, Jackson called for jobs involving the reconstruction of homes.

Morial said the vast amount of U.S. money used to support Iraq and Afghanistan was a misplaced priority.

"That should be redirected to Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore," Morial said.

He assailed Congress for not passing an infrastructure bill, which he said would provide much-needed jobs.

The panelists also urged the audience of about 400 to attend a new March on Washington on Aug. 24 to demand jobs and address current civil-rights issues.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, an icon of the civil-rights movement who marched with King, urged the crowd to keep demanding justice and to participate in the August march.

Lewis, who received the National Urban League's Civil Rights Champion Award, said that when he was a child growing up in Alabama, he asked his parents and grandparents about Jim Crow signs at stores and restaurants.

"They would say, 'That's the way it is. Don't get in trouble.' But one day, I was inspired to get in the way and get in trouble," Lewis said.

"For more than 50 years I have been getting into what I call good trouble, necessary trouble," he said.

Lewis hailed Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to hold Texas to the same federal oversight that existed before the Supreme Court ruled in June that part of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional.

He said the right to vote is "precious, almost sacred. And that's why we must march again on Aug. 24 in Washington, D.C."

Loud applause erupted when Lewis reminded the crowd that he was severely beaten by police while marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., with about 600 others demanding equal voting rights on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965.

"I gave a little blood," Lewis said. "I almost died on that bridge. I thought I saw death. So don't let anyone take us back."


Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|