NAN President Shares Washington March Experience
OPINION – How does it feel when you are about to be a part of something historic? This question continued to run through my mind during my trip to Washington, D.C. for the Commitment March led by Rev. Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton. One thing that I wanted to make sure was not to experience this moment alone. So amid a once-in-a-century pandemic, my wife, Karlette, and I packed up our family and flew across the country to share this experience.
For me, the March was the fulfillment of a promise made back in June, by Rev. Sharpton, in my hometown of Minneapolis, MN, at the memorial of George Floyd. After spending hours running around the city to coordinate the Memorial service plans with Rev. Deves Toon, the National Field Coordinator of the National Action Network, Rev. Sharpton surprisingly announces the March in D.C. to tell lawmakers to, “Get their knee off our necks!” This March would occur on the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington in 1963. However, the catch was that Sharpton’s announcement was not only the first time the world heard about it, but ours too. But it was a promise made to the family of George Floyd and to the families who were victimized by police brutality and racial violence. We had to help Sharpton keep his promise.
On the eve of the March, we met up at the Lincoln Memorial that morning for the final walkthrough. Along with my Sacramento team, there were teams from Sharpton’s National Action Network chapters in Los Angeles and New York.
The teams break up to follow up on our respective assignments to speak with the press, conduct rehearsals, and meet up with those who travelled with us to volunteer for the March.
Finally, the day comes, and we must be there by 6:00 am. Once we get to the Lincoln Memorial, the site is already abuzz with activity. Sharpton is preparing to go live on MSNBC to talk about what the world should expect from the March. I get recruited to be on the production team to coordinate the singers and musicians led by my brother, Rev. Ellington Porter.
Around 8:00 am, we begin the event. Sacramento native, Katrina Jefferson is leading our production team. She also comes from a pastor’s family, the late Bishop Yardley Griffin Sr. She moved to New York City years ago to pursue the theater and found her calling with Sharpton’s National Action Network. “Porter, strike up the band. We need an opening song!” is what I hear over the headset. I reply, “Copy,” and we start playing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” The musicians and singers are on point with our lead singer, Elijah Bell sounding like Sam himself.
History is happening, and the world is watching.
For about five hours, I hadn’t had the chance to pay much attention to the crowd. So I purposely stopped what I was doing and took a moment to turn to the crowds and take it in.
I am awestruck!
People are everywhere, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the Reflecting Pool, they cover the National Mall and beyond. The crowd is mostly Black and millennial, with many families. There is an excitement in the air that is mixed with melancholy.
Hundreds of thousands have come out to this March, during a pandemic, not just for exercise, but for a purpose. To bring about change and to make history!
My moment is interrupted with Katrina shouting in my headset, “Sharpton’s coming!” I’ll never forget the scene of his entrance leading the procession of the families of the names that we now know all too well — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Jacob Blake, Trayvon Martin, and our very own Stephon Clark. Sharpton wants them to be seen and to stand with him during this moment. THIS IS WHY WE ARE HERE! To remember the tragic reality that 57 years later, we still are marching for many of the same things that MLK marched for back then.
What I feel at this historical time, is pride, mixed with sadness. I am proud that we are here, and that so many came from near and far to stand and make history AGAIN. I am especially proud that my two sons (TJ and Kamarion), daughter (Kara), nephew (Ellington Jr.), and niece (Kierra), all who are between the ages of 15 – 22, are here witnessing this moment.
I feel sad. Listening to the families on the platform with Sharpton, still grieving for their lost loved ones, crying out for justice that is way past due. I can’t help but feel their sorrow as they still mourn.
I feel grateful that my children are alive and well, and I hope this experience will impact their lives as it is impacting mine.
I feel determined! Determined to BE the change we seek so that my grandchildren don’t have to march again on Washington in their lifetime.
How does it feel to be a part of something so historic? It made me realize that history is made by those who have the courage to make it!
By Dr. Tecoy Porter
Dr. Tecoy Porter Sr. is the Senior Pastor of the Genesis Church in South Sacramento. He also serves as the President of the National Action Network Sacramento Chapter and is the State President for NAN’s CA State affiliate. Follow him on twitter at @drtecoyportersr.