America’s Journey for Justice entered its second week as a determined band of marchers endured the August heat and made their way across Georgia headed for South Carolina, then North Carolina, and then Virginia.
The long march through red state territory began August 1 in Selma, Alabama, five days before the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and will end 860 miles later in Washington DC.
“We march because our lives matter, our votes matter, our jobs matter, and our schools matter,” said Cornell William Brooks, the president and CEO of the NAACP at a June media conference announcing the journey.
The NAACP organized the journey and a coalition of its allies are supporting it. The coalition includes religious, civil rights, environmental, and social justice groups as well as two labor unions: the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
Brooks said that the journey will mobilize activists and educate the public in order to advance “a national policy agenda that protects the right of every American to a fair criminal justice system, uncorrupted and unfettered access to the ballot box, sustainable jobs with a living wage, and equitable public education.
“We’ll march for 40 days and 40 nights,” said Brooks. “The purpose of the journey will be about putting laws on the books, not merely about protesting.”
Foremost on the agenda is the need to bring justice to a criminal justice system that discriminates against African Americans.
“The number of people subject to police profiling in the US is about equal to the number of people who live in Canada,” said Brooks. “An African American man is 21 more times likely to lose his life at the hands of the police than his white counterpart.”
The journey will also seek to build support for laws that will strengthen the Voting Rights Act.
A spate of voter identification laws aimed at restricting voter participation have been passed since 2011. In 2013, the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As a result, state laws that restricted voter participation were allowed to stand and other states were empowered to enact similar laws.
“We must enact a policy agenda that honors civil rights and social justice – this is our fight,” said Claude Cummings, CWA District 6 vice president at the rally in Selma that served as a send off for the journey. “Fifty years ago, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. Now, extremism and attacks on voting rights and registration have made it much more difficult for millions of Americans to vote.”
The journey will also seek legislation that will help ensure full employment at a living wage and a public school system that serves the public, not special interests seeking to turn education into a revenue stream for private investors.
On August 10, the marchers completed 144 miles of their journey as they marched through LaGrange, Georgia where they planned to hold a teach in on the journey’s legislative agenda.
With 705 more miles to go, participants in the march, who have come from as far away as San Francisco and New York City, remained in high spirits.
“This march is amazing, even on a day like this when it’s incredibly hot outside,” said a marcher named Mary to the LaGrange Daily News. “It’s completely worth it. There are 150 rabbis from across the country that will be coming to carry the Torah for a stretch of the Journey for Justice. This Torah comes from a synagogue in Chicago and it’s being handed from rabbi to rabbi each day. This Torah will make it the entire way from Selma to Washington, DC.”
“To be in a group of people so dedicated and so conscious of what is really going on in our country, it is so incredibly moving, that I keep getting overwhelmed by the depth of commitment and brilliance of the people that are putting this on and walking together,” said Sarah Boddy an NAACP member to the Daily News.
The journey will continue on through Georgia and arrive in South Carolina on August 20. It will then move to North Carolina where CWA will be hosting a voting rights teach-in on August 26 in Charlotte.
The main speaker will be William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and the leader of the Moral Monday Movement, a grassroots effort aimed at reversing the attacks on voting rights, workers rights, civil rights, and social justice that have become so prevalent since 2011.
The journey moves to Virginia on September 3 and ends in Washington DC on September 16 where the marchers and their supporters will hold a rally and day of advocacy.