Marching on Washington: “A Continuation, Not A Commemoration”

Author: Kierra Johnson

Today, thousands will gather to mark the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have Dream” speech made history, a rallying cry that inspired generations of justice seekers, me included.

It is impossible to describe how honored and humbled I am to be part of the 60th – dubbed a “Continuation not a Commemoration” and stand where MLK, Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Josephine Baker, and so many others did in 1963 to inspire new and increased action in the fight for full civil rights for Black people. The Task Force has participated in these marches, in 1963, 2003, and 2013 and we are proud to be a part of the march again this year especially as civil rights are being eroded at an unprecedented rate impacting millions of people across the country.

Being invited to be on that stage is a privilege. It is also a responsibility that I take seriously. I will carry with me the spirit of my ancestors, the dreams of my queer, Black, and feminist communities, and the love of my family, friends, and co-conspirators. We are living in a world where racial equity is under threat, queer rights and trans rights are being legislated out of existence, and reproductive rights have been eroded by the highest court in the land. Our lives are on the line.

In the 60 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the 50 years since the founding of the National LGBTQ Task Force, we have made progress beyond many of our foreparents wildest dreams. It is our responsibility to tell the stories of what our dreams, our innovations, our love, our words, our power have produced in our communities, our country and around the world. It was not and has never been about our magic but the sheer beauty and brilliance of our humanity that has birthed culture and liberatory practices that have impacted the masses, raised communities, and helped heal the wounds of misogyny, white supremacy, and racism.

And it will be because of our beautiful humanity that we will also heal the wounds of trans and homophobia and help build a new community…a new democracy where the full humanity of Black, indigenous, trans, immigrant, disabled peoples are valued and honored.

The organizers of this continuation, this inspiration, this urgent affirmation, and rallying cry to recommit to the struggle for freedom and liberation, will make history again!

I believe Bayard Rustin, an organizer behind much of the work of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the first March on Washington, a gay Black man marginalized at a time when being queer was not accepted by the larger civil rights movement and was illegal, will be there in spirit. I know he will be looking down with pride.

The diversity of speakers and issues shows a solidarity and intersectionality that has always been at the heart of the Task Force’s work and for us, is the only way forward in the current political climate, if we are to truly overcome.

And here is a little history and context for all of us as we approach this weekend. A testament to the progress we have made and should celebrate. And a clarion call to organize for what lies ahead.

In 1963, organizers came together on a set of goals that included passage of meaningful civil rights legislation, the elimination of school segregation, the implementation of Federal nondiscrimination laws, and the withholding of Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination and more.

Sixty years later these issues are still in play. We are still organizing for what we should be entitled to as humans on this land.

As the first black leader of a 50-year-old legacy civil rights LGBTQ organization, it is an extraordinary opportunity to connect across many progressive movements. To show the world we’re here and queer, Black, and Proud and we are political force to be reckoned with. And if we are united, we can withstand and persevere against the threats to our freedoms and democracy.

It is vital that an even more intersectional rainbow coalition emerge, bringing together the women’s movement, queer movement, immigration movement, those working for equity and liberation, no matter race, faith, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability, or immigration status.

As we approach 2024, I hope we all commit to rebuilding and fortifying our democracy by exercising our political and economic power. We have a right and responsibility to organize, protest, educate, and vote.

This weekend the world will see how our multiracial, multi-gendered and multigenerational movements are manifesting and growing. This is not the beginning, and it certainly is not the end. Those who feel threatened by the love, growth, and success we have made so far are going to be blown away because we aren’t going anywhere. The love we have for ourselves and even those who hate us is birthing a bigger, stronger, and more impactful movement that is unstoppable. I hope the march speaks to your spirit, but it is also meant to inspire you to action. Together, let us take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to equity, justice and liberation and encourage and inspire others to join us. Will you?

Kierra Johnson is the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. For more information go to

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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Author: Kierra Johnson

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