Sixty years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, freedom fighters will again descend on Washington to demand justice. Many of us only learned about the 1963 March on Washington from textbooks. This week, we have the chance to be part of something equally historic.
In 1963, racial segregation was enforced throughout the country. In 1942, white Detroit residents rioted against a public housing project for Black families. In 1945, a Black family was killed when their house in a white neighborhood in California was bombed. The government enforced white-only jobs, neighborhoods, schools, and businesses (EJI).
Black sharecroppers who registered to vote were forced into “refugee camps” (EJI). Less than a month after the March on Washington, four Black children were murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. “My friends,” said the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s John Lewis at the march, “let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution” (Bill Moyers).
• Reserve your spot on a bus today to attend the National March on Washington for Palestine this Saturday, November 4.
• Send us a picture of yourself at a pro-Palestine protest to be celebrated alongside other readers fighting genocide and apartheid.
• Register here for our free virtual Action Hour today, 10/31, at 1 PM EST to call for a ceasefire.
• Support the Palestinian Youth Movement and Anera.
This Saturday, November 4, community members from across the country will demand that the Biden administration end its support of the genocide against Palestine. The deep solidarity between the Black and Palestinian freedom struggles isn’t coincidental.
Some Black organizations celebrated the founding of the State of Israel before the extent of Palestinian dispossession in the Nakba became clear. Since then, there’s been a strong “analysis of the African American struggle for freedom in the United States as analogous to anti-colonial struggles abroad” (Vox). Though Dr. King is sometimes claimed as a supporter of Israel, a supposed letter he wrote criticizing anti-Zionism has no factual basis (Jacobin). When Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, Lewis’ SNCC denounced efforts to “completely dispossess the Arabs of their homes, land, and livelihood.” The Black Panther Party supported “the Palestinians’ just struggle for liberation one hundred percent.” Activist Jesse Jackson denounced the economic and military ties between the State of Israel and apartheid South Africa (Vox). In 2013, Palestinian protesters in Bethlehem wore hoodies to commemorate Trayvon Martin. “Our common goal is to live in peace and to not fear for our children’s lives when they are walking down the street,” said Palestinian American activist Bassem Masri. When U.S. police tear gassed Black Lives Matter protesters, Palestinian activists shared tips on neutralizing it, pointing out that the same U.S.-produced tear gas was used against activists in Ferguson and the West Bank (The Nation).
Segregation, over-policing, structural poverty, and violence against Black homes and churches formed the backdrop of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As Nadya from the Palestinian Youth Movement explained, racial segregation is the law in Israel today. Since October 7, “the number of Palestinians caged in Israel’s sprawling network of prisons and detention camps has nearly doubled” to 10,000, with prisoners reporting broken bones and deprivation of food and water (Truthout). The Black-white wealth gap in the contemporary U.S. is dwarfed by the Israeli-Palestinian wealth gap, with Israeli GDP per capita 750% that of the Palestinian West Bank (CIA, CIA). In place of the four children killed by a white supremacist bombing in Birmingham, over a dozen Palestinians were murdered by an Israeli airstrike on one of the oldest Christian churches in the world on October 20 (NPR).
Anti-Palestinian violence today is exponentially larger than U.S. violence against the Civil Rights Movement. “There will be no buildings” in Gaza, said an Israeli defense official. “There’s an entire nation out there that is responsible,” said Israel’s president (The Guardian).
Gaza has the same population as Los Angeles in 1963 (Biggest U.S. Cities). To enact comparable violence against the Black freedom struggle, the Lyndon Johnson administration would have had to convert Los Angeles into a concentration camp holding only Black residents, mostly refugees from the South, before sealing the exits, cutting off food and water, and dropping thousands of bombs until there were “no buildings” left.
Black-Palestinian solidarity doesn’t exist because Black activists are uninformed or antisemitic. It exists because “we know occupation, we know colonization, we know police brutality,” one BLM activist explained (Politico). That’s why this Saturday’s National March for Palestine is the modern equivalent of the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom. Though modern liberals universally imagine themselves attending, if you use deflection and “whataboutism” in response to a colonized people demanding their liberation and mere survival today, I guarantee you that you would have done the same in the 1960s, when only a minority of people had a positive opinion of Dr. King (Gallup). We cannot afford to be among those “more devoted to order than to justice… who paternalistically believes he can set a timetable for another man’s freedom” (Letter from Jail).
There will be buses taking protesters from across the country to the march in Washington this Saturday. You should go and encourage those around you to do the same. Let us know if you attend, and send us a picture to be celebrated alongside other ARD readers! If you truly cannot, you should attend a protest in your community. You should give generously to the organizations fighting for the liberation of Palestine and demand that the U.S. halt all aid to the Israeli apartheid regime. Fighting for justice wasn’t popular in the 1960s, and it’s not popular today. But there’s no excuse for silence in the face of genocide.
• The 1963 March on Washington was against segregation, over-policing, and racist violence.
• The Israeli state is enacting all of these same forms of discrimination and violence against Palestinians today.
• The November 4 National March on Washington for Palestine is critical, as are local protests and direct action campaigns.