The Civil Rights Alliance was largely based on faith. In local churches, synagogues and mosques, people came to a common understanding of suffering and salvation and heard the call of some religious leaders to join in the struggle for justice.
Faith, in its broadest sense, is still a common denominator among those who respond to this call; even Americans who do not identify with any particular belief are often driven to action by the deep-rooted belief that we are all bound by our common humanity.
Today, as we continue the long struggle for racial equality in an increasingly polarized society, we must not forget that we have a proud tradition of alliance to draw on. By openly celebrating allies of the past, we inspire young people to follow their example, we recognize the value of collaboration, and we remind ourselves to cherish allies of the present.
Such figures give us reason to hope for a better future; if every American can see themselves reflected in the equality movement, our ranks will surely continue to grow. But we should not take anyone’s continued support for granted. In these difficult times, we must redouble our efforts to build bridges between communities, not ditches. From school curricula to political documents, we must prioritize measures designed to help citizens of all racial, ethnic, political and economic groups find common ground. So many things unite us. We all have fears. We all have dreams. We all love our children and our country and want to see them both flourish.
Martin Luther King, Jr. made an unforgettable contribution to the March on Washington and the political successes that came with it, but he was also part of not only the “Big Six” but also the diverse “Top Ten”. Today, the fight for racial equality is once again waged by a loose coalition of militant groups and their allies. The fight is now taking place online as well as on the streets and in the homes of Congress. We don’t need to wait for a single prophetic voice to emerge. Regardless of our skin color, gender or beliefs, if each of us articulates our personal vision of justice, we will create a combined chorus that cannot be ignored. Our collective call for change will be more powerful than six, 10 or even 250,000 votes.
Because what’s more important than any number is the one thing that we can never quantify, but that matters more than anything else: love.