By George E. Curry
PHILADELPHIA (NNPA) – National Urban League President Marc H. Morial has called for “a new civil rights movement,” one that will focus on economic empowerment and justice.
Morial, now in his 10th year as president and CEO of the nation’s second-oldest civil rights organization, announced his proposal last Wednesday nights at his group’s annual convention here.
After citing tremendous progress made over the past 50 years, Morial said, “The challenge before us now is to create a new ‘Civil Rights Movement for Economic Empowerment and Justice.’ If 1963 was about jobs and freedom – two, zero, one, three is about economic empowerment and justice…a continuation movement standing on the shoulders of progress in which a new generation of Blacks, whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, Jews, Gentiles, Protestants, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims – people from all walks of life, dispositions and orientations coalesce around working together to ensure that the promise of life, liberty and economic opportunity becomes real for this generation. We started it 50 years ago, and it’s time to finish our business.”
Morial said, “Now, let me be clear. I do not naively believe that this happens overnight. But when we are all committed to the kind of progress that can advance our nation and our democracy toward the ‘land of equal opportunity’ that we can be, our shared vision can certainly outweigh our superficial differences.”
With a March on Washington planned for Aug. 24, the National Urban League leader said just as Blacks have fought for basic rights in the past, such as the right to vote and have full access to public accommodations, African-Americans are now in another fight to preserve those gains.
“But there are extreme forces – not from Main Street or the mainstream for that matter – that seek to turn back the clock on 50 years of progress,” he stated. “A small group of people with very loud voices and deep pockets are putting the rights of gun owners over the safety of our streets and the lives of our children. Those same people criticize our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble to express our grievances, yet favor those senseless Stand Your Ground laws that make our streets less safe, perpetuate ongoing conviction and incarceration disparities and lead to tragedies like the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.”
Martin, 17 and unarmed, was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., as he was returning to the home of one of his father’s friends after purchasing a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Tea from a local convenience store.
”I was saddened as most of you when the verdict was announced. I’ve said it before, and I will repeat it here – with the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death has become a travesty and miscarriage of justice. We must accept the jury’s decision under the due process of our legal system. But we have made it clear that this is far from over” said Morial, an attorney and former mayor of New Orleans.
He noted, “On behalf of the National Urban League and Urban League Movement, many of us have joined the leaders of the NAACP, National Action Network, the Black Women’s Roundtable, La Raza, and others in calling on and commending the Department of Justice for pursuing a federal criminal civil rights investigation in an effort to determine whether any federal laws were violated by George Zimmerman in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin. Stand Your Ground laws – and those similar to them – must be reviewed and rejected.”
Some conservative commentators have accused civil rights leaders of being concerned when a Trayvon Martin is killed by a George Zimmerman, who has White and Latino lineage, but not when Blacks kill other Blacks.
Conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly said, “It was wrong for Zimmerman to confront Martin based on his appearance. But the culture that we have in this country does lead to criminal profiling because young Black American men are so often involved in crime.”
He also said, “When was the last time you saw a public service ad telling young Black girls to avoid becoming pregnant? Has President Obama done such an ad? How about [Jesse] Jackson or [Al] Sharpton? Has the Congressional Black Caucus demanded an ad like that? How about the PC pundits who work for NBC News?”
O’Reilly continued, “White people don’t force Black people to have babies out of wedlock. That’s a personal decision. A decision that has devastated millions of children and led to disaster, both socially and economically.”
Morial said conservatives are misstating the facts.
”I am outraged when Black teens kill Black teens or when gangbangers take the lives of another gangbanger and all too often, innocent bystanders. I am outraged at the violence that has taken far too many of our nameless, faceless and now forgotten young people…whether in Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans or any other city,” he stated.
“I am outraged by underachievement and low test scores…by parents that won’t live up to their responsibilities. So, for anyone who says we have no concern about what’s happening in our communities every day, they are not in our churches to hear our prayers. They are not in our community meetings to hear our conversations and see us working toward solutions. They are not in our kitchens to feel the anguish and the pain when yet another one of our loved ones is senselessly taken from us,” Morial said, with his voice dripping with emotion. “They are not part of this organization or others that work on a daily basis to impact the legislation that perpetuates inequality, or to develop the programs that ensure our children are ready for college and careers, or to work with those whom society has flippantly discarded and denied a second chance. Quite simply, they are not there. However, we invite them along this journey with us should they ever choose to trade in uninformed criticism for constructive action.”