August 30, 2013 9:41:38 AM
JACKSON -- Activists, city leaders and others in Jackson called Wednesday for a fresh engagement to social and political change in the spirit of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
The calls to action came from the steps of Mississippi's Capitol building on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. A group of about 100, including students from Tougaloo College and Jackson State University, both historically black institutions, surrounded a Confederate monument outside the building.
Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (SHOW-kway Lu-MOOM-bah) noted that he and other rally participants have come to the Capitol to seek the release of imprisoned people and fight against proposals to crack down on people who have entered the country illegally.
"History didn't stop with Martin Luther King," said Lumumba, an attorney and one-time civil rights activist who was involved in a black nationalist group decades ago. "Dr. Martin Luther King helped give a boost to our historical progress. Where much has been accomplished, we still have much to do."
Omari Morris, a senior at Jackson's Jim Hill High School, said she came with her Jackson church in part to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
"It means a lot, because what Martin Luther King did for us, we should pay him back," said Morris, 17.
Several speakers mentioned the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ending requirements that Mississippi and some other states submit voting changes for federal approval.
Mississippi officials quickly took the chance to implement a voter identification requirement that had been tied up in Washington.
"Whenever we fight, we win and we only lose when we sit down and become complacent," said Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP. "When you wake up tomorrow, continue the struggle, continue the fight."
The rally included multiple groups that pressed for alternatives to Mississippi's conservative Republican mainstream, including support for the new federal health care law, fewer people in prison and more unionized workers.
"We have identified this anniversary as an opportunity to claim our history of Southern resistance," said Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "What, Mississippi, is the vision for dignity and justice in our state?"