On August 28, 1963, nearly a quarter-million people gathered near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a demonstration aimed at advocating for the civil and economic rights of African Americans. Now immortalized as one of the largest civil rights rallies in U.S. history, the event was also the site of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.’s history-defining “I Have A Dream” speech, in which King movingly imparted his vision for an unsegregated and equitable America.
Almost 60 years later, as thousands of Americans have once again taken to the streets in protest of social injustices, systemic racism, and police brutality— including the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other unarmed Black individuals at the hands of police— a 2020 March on Washington has been planned. Organized by the National Action Network, an organization founded by Reverend Al Sharpton, the ‘Get Off Our Necks’ Commitment March on Washington will be held on August 28, to coincide with the anniversary of the original march.
When she learned about the event, Johanna Greeson, PhD, an associate professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), immediately recognized the connection between the March and SP2’s central mission of advancing social justice and advocating for social change, in addition to the social work profession’s roots in organizing and collective action. Greeson quickly sent out a call for SP2 faculty, students, and alumni, inviting all who were interested in participating in the event to connect with her.
“The impetus for organizing was the death of George Floyd and the student call for action from SP2. When I heard the March on Washington was happening as part of Black Lives Matter and the call for policing and criminal justice, I felt compelled to ensure SP2 had a presence,” Greeson said. “I also felt like this would be a great way for SP2 students, faculty, and staff to engage in constructive action together.”
So far, Greeson’s call has resulted in a coordinated effort involving over 40 interested respondents from across the SP2 community. A Black Lives Matter t-shirt designed by SP2 student Wamweni Shamambo, NPL ’22, is also available for attendees to purchase. Additionally, Greeson has secured a chartered bus for those in the group who wish to travel together or have not already arranged their own transportation.
All members of the SP2 community who are interested in traveling with and/or joining those who are attending the Commitment March are encouraged to get in touch for further information.