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March on Washington, Nearly 60 Years Later

People attend the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

People attend the March on Washington, Friday Aug. 28, 2020, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.

August 28th marked 57 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. made his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. 

commemorative event in the capitol last Friday celebrated that anniversary. It was particularly meaningful this year, because it came three months after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, sparking renewed civil rights protests.

Las Vegas activist and organizer Tenisha Freedom attended the march.

"Arriving into D.C. it was definitely historic," she said, "It was definitely amazing to be amongst a sea of people that seemed to have an awareness or an awakening, so to speak, as to some of what is happening in our country right now."

Freedom said there was an energy in the crowd and a goal to be heard on the social issues that are happening right now. She said the organizers of the march had strong political goals centered around voting this fall, but in the crowd, there were a variety of voices.

"The overall energy was change though," she said, "People are wanting to stand, they're wanting to get together and move towards something that gives us a resolution that is working to fight against the racial disparities that we're seeing in this country."

She said speakers at the march talked about political action, like voting in the November election and a police reform bill before Congress, but the speakers that resonated with her the most were the families of people who have been hurt or killed by police.

"They are kind of the ones that I would describe as boots on the ground," she said, "They're the ones that have been front line impacted by the police violence that we believe is centered in racial disparities."

Freedom said what those families had to say about changes that needed to be made was the most motivating to her.

National Action Network Las Vegas organized a satellite march and rally beginning at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in the Historic West Side. 

Stretch Sanders is the vice president of National Action Network Las Vegas and helped organize the rally. He said there were about 100 people at the march, but he would rather have a small rally with dedicated people than thousands of people there for the wrong reasons.

"This is not about being seen," he said, "This is about life and death. People are being literally killed by police terrorism and racism and other illnesses in this country."

Sanders said people need to come to rallies and marches to do the real work not to treat it as an event.

The rally had a diverse group of speakers that focused not on platitudes about voting and change but what they see as real solutions, Sanders said.

"I think that is really important that when we have any type of captive audience we need to give action items," he said, "It's okay to push get out the vote. It's okay to push the anti-Trump, but if that's all we're pushing, it's counter-productive. Because this problem was started before Trump, it's going to be here after Trump."

He said it is important to push organizing and solutions within organizing.

Sanders and his group have taken up what they view as a solution: patrolling communities of color in Las Vegas.

"We do a weekly patrol, starting tonight from 7 to 9," he said, "And we go into communities of color, particularly Black communities, to make sure our communities are safe."

He said the group has been successful in transforming neighborhoods. In fact, he heard from someone, who had gone to a Metro Bolden Area Command weekly meeting, that crime was down 14 percent in that area because of the New Era efforts. 

Sanders said that if regular people in a community patrol their own streets, and not the police, which he believes actually amplify problems, there is less crime in the community. 

"Those that broke you will not build you up," he said, "The ideologies are not designed to really work in the interest of the people."

From NPR: Photos From March On Washington

Tenisha Freedom, activist;  Stretch Sanders, New Era Las Vegas

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.