60 years ago Monday, hundreds of thousands of people filled Washington D.C. for the historic March on Washington for Jobs and freedom.
About a quarter million Americans outraged over the nation’s racial oppression and inequities peacefully marched and gathered near the Lincoln Memorial for the march.
During the march, the most influential Civil Rights leaders called for greater racial, ethnic and economic equality.
Among those speakers was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Today, leaders in Chicago say they’re fulfilling ideals presented during the march by helping families become financially stable.
It’s an idea historian, author and professor of history at Simmons College of Kentucky, Dr. Jemar Tisby says formed decades earlier by A. Phillip Randolph.
“He proposed a march on Washington all the way back in 1941 and it was to protest discrimination in the federal government and who they offer federal contracts too,” he said.
When the march became a reality in August of 1963, marchers presented demands.
“A lot of what they were demanding was economic stability because to them, you couldn’t have true freedom unless you had financial security,” Tisby said.
Helping low-income families access capital and become financially stable are realities West Side natives reverend Dr. Marshall Hatch and Pastor Ira Acree are striving to improve.
The pastors are leaders within The Leaders Network.
“It’s an advocacy and community organizing entity styled in our minds on Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” Hatch said.
In commemoration of Dr. King’s legacy and the March on Washington’s 60th anniversary these two leaders joined forces with other members of the leaders network and Great Lakes Credit Union launching The Leaders Network Financial Credit Union. After renovations, the credit union will open at the corner of Central and Madison Avenues in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, a neighborhood lacking any bank branches, according to the pastors.
“This effort that we’re bringing is going to bring some hope,” Acree said. “And it’s going to bring some more financial circulation of money in our own neighborhoods.”
The two pastors who deeply admire Dr. King, who moved to a Lawndale apartment in 1966 bringing attention to poor living conditions for African Americans, say The Leaders Network Financial Credit Union is an extension of the Civil Right’s leader’s legacy and dream.
“I think he would be smiling,” Hatch said. “I don’t think there is going to be an initiative just like this with that kind of alignment with.”
Dr. King’s speech and others who spoke during the march on Washington unified millions by calling on dominant society to urgently create policies reversing centuries of societal ills and holding the country’s leaders to the nation’s highest ideals.
“One purpose, one people united in their diversity, not erasing their diversity but saying that because the founding ideals on paper the declaration of independence the constitution and other documents we can live up to this beautiful vision of a nation democratically ruled by the people and for the people and when we come together real change can happen,” Tisby said.
After years of lobbying, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law followed by the National Voting Rights Act of 1965. Also, The Leaders Network Financial Credit Union is available online … and is expected to open for in-person business during Black History Month.