I grew up in Washington D.C. When I was 11, my mom said we were going to an important event on Aug. 28 — the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This was 1963. It was years before the significance of that day sank in. For me at the time, it was a beautiful summer day and all seemed happy and excited.

Someone handed me a sign to carry. It read, “UAW SAYS: We Are MARCHING FOR FREEDOM — Ours and Yours.”

This year is the 50th anniversary of the march and much is being made of it. I just listened to “The Afternoon Shift” on WBEZ radio. Over the course of three days, this program commemorated the march. The first program opened with a portion of Studs Terkel’s “This Train” interviews, which he made on his train journey from Chicago to Washington to participate in the march — outstanding oral history where Studs interviewed others on the same journey. Remembrance is vital, but the 1963 march was about making our federal government create and enact policies for economic and racial justice.

It is a crime in this nation to receive starvation wages.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

From the U.S. Census Bureau “2011 American Community Survey on Children in Poverty by Race and Ethnicity,” 37% of Native American children live in poverty; 14% of Asian and Pacific Islander children live in poverty; 39% of Black or African-American children live in poverty; 34% of Hispanic or Latino children live in poverty; 14% of Non-Hispanic White children live in poverty; and 24% of children identified as Two or More Races live in poverty.

Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

According to the Urban Institute’s “Less Than Equal: Racial Disparities in Wealth Accumulation,” the change in average family wealth by race and ethnicity, 2007 to 2010, shows White non-Hispanic families losing 11% of their wealth, Black non-Hispanic families losing 31% of their wealth, and Hispanic families losing 44% of their wealth. The same report shows White non-Hispanic families losing 24% of their home equity, Black non-Hispanic families losing 28% of their home equity, and Hispanic families losing 49% of their home equity.

We know of no more crucial civil rights issue facing Congress today than the need to increase the Federal minimum wage and extend its coverage.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

From the conclusion of the Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper “A Decade of Flat Wages”: “The weak wage growth since 1979 for all but those with the highest wages is the result of intentional policy decisions — including globalization, deregulation, weaker unions [and] a weaker minimum wage.”

We need to change policies that drive so many into poverty and desperation, and keep them there.

A living wage should be the right of all working Americans.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

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