March Fourth-Forth (Video)

March 8, 2017

 

Bernie was in town. That was definitely a draw. The March on Mississippi - a statement against working conditions and union suppression at the Canton, Mississippi Nissan automotive plant - had an urgency that’s become more common of late. After all, there are whole generations of us who haven't been around to see real movements on our home turf; people are eager to stand and be counted.

 

I recall a college course I took on social movements. The professor gave an assignment for each of us publish a new Wikipedia page on a heretofore missing movement. I settled on the March on Washington Movement. Not the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, mind you - where Dr. King spoke out over the reflecting pool and toward the Monument spire. The March on Washington Movement was earlier, before and during WWII. The march never even happened. It didn’t need to. Civil Rights leader A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, supported by the NAACP and a broad coalition of labor activists, succeeded in the goal of establishing protections for African American workers. Read the wiki and you’ll find a 1940 quote from the president of the North American Aviation Co., who said, "While we are in complete sympathy with the Negro, it is against company policy to employ them as aircraft workers or mechanics …  regardless of their training.... There will be some jobs as janitors for Negroes."

 

March fourth was a day of synchronicity. A. Philip Randolph and the veterans of movements past got a shout out from the stage by - among others - current NAACP President Cornell William Brooks. The distance between the combustible past and our recent complacency has collapsed. Time is overlaid and ghosts walk among us. As Bernie Sanders spoke - his hair standing up in the wind like Doc Brown as a scarecrow - it all felt very real and prescient. At AND Gallery in Midtown, Jackson, a group of contemporary artists and curators opened March Forth, an exhibition of protest art that has likewise not been seen in the area in quite some time.

 

Like the movements of this moment, the exhibition isn’t monosyllabic; themes of incarceration, police violence, feminism, propaganda, human identity. It is another localized flash point in the continuous, decentralized action blooming once again across the country. Someone hit up Bernie on Twitter and invited him to the art show. The Senator tweeted back that he’d like to come but he had a prior engagement. Folks joked that it was a date with a warm glass of milk and an episode of "Murder She Wrote". Bernie missed the art exhibition. You don't have to.

 

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