MLK III: What’s Even More Challenging Today Than 60 Years Ago

American Religious and Civil Rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929 – 1968) gives his “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. The widely quoted speech became one of his most famous. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Opinion by Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King

(CNN) — Editor’s note: Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King, along with their daughter, Yolanda Renee King, direct the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a nonprofit think tank and community action group founded by Martin Luther King Jr. The views expressed here are the authors’ own. Read more opinion on CNN.

After a summer of discontent and disaffection, we returned to the nation’s capital Saturday to mark 60 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington. We returned with a clear demand and unified call: It’s time to realize the dream. It’s time to realize that, in more ways than we can count, the challenges facing marginalized communities, particularly Black and brown Americans, are even more prevalent than they were six decades ago.

We must be honest with ourselves that America has become a place where hate and intolerance from extremists have given rise to radical agendas at every level of government both to harm and diminish the voices of certain segments of the population. In many instances, the US Supreme Court has become the vehicle for this country turning back the clock on years of progress.

Today, our daughter, the only grandchild of Dr. King, like all women, has fewer rights than the day she was born 15 years ago. We have been told that women cannot have control of their own bodies. We have been told that Black and brown Americans do not deserve to attend college as much as legacy students and athletes. We have been told that there is nothing we can do — but there is.

Sixty years ago, a group of committed Americans set out to march in Washington, DC, because they had not seen the progress our movement deserved. Among their demands was the passage of the Voting Rights Act — which would become law two years later. Today, the Voting Rights Act is a shell of itself, torn apart by the Supreme Court and ignored by right-wing state legislatures.

We followed the marchers’ lead, 60 years later, because their work is not complete. The crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement — the Voting Rights Act — has been shredded. The jobs and freedom they marched for have not been attained, and the peace, justice and equity at the center of their movement are still absent from many of our laws. We marched for a government that is just, a world that is equal and a movement that is returning.

While many remember the March on Washington as a turning point in the movement for civil rights, fewer know it by its full name and intention: It was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Central to the demands of the organizers was the right to a good job, a fair wage and equal economic opportunity for all. Those demands have not been met in the six decades since.

In 1963, when the organizers of the first March on Washington came to DC, the Black homeownership rate trailed White Americans by 27%. Today, that number has increased to 30%. The racial wealth gap, then, was $121,000. Today, it is $161,000. Black Americans still earn less for the same work than White Americans. They are still less likely to receive a fair mortgage or small business loan.

The March on Washington set out to change those disparities. Today, they still exist. We are far from realizing the dream and building an equitable country — but there is hope. In 1963, that hope was held by the hundreds of thousands who attended the march. That is why it is critical that we hold the momentum of this movement. It was crucial that we return to the nation’s capital in force and demonstrate to our leaders that this movement is keeping the hope of 1963 alive.

We returned to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington. But we were not commemorating the historic moment. We are continuing the work of the movement and demanding the progress we deserve. Our voices matter, and we will use them louder than ever before.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.