In his State of the Urban League Address, NUL President Marc H. Morial observed:
Next month – on Aug. 28 – will be 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, organized in part by our own Whitney M. Young, Jr., and challenged this nation to live up to the founding ideals that were conceived in Philadelphia and engraved in that Liberty Bell.
The events, both good and bad, of 1963, awakened the conscience of this nation and sped up the wheels of progress. I mention these events, not to elicit tears or sadness, but to remind you of both the sacrifices and the progress that have been made over the past 50 years. These events directly led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Thank God, things ain’t what they used to be. As Morial noted:
Fifty years ago, 75% of black adults had not completed high school. Currently, 85% of black adults have a high school education. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more blacks enrolled, and five times as many blacks hold a college degree.
As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Urban League and The Memorial Foundation will convene Drum Majors for Justice Summit: Redeem the Dream “to celebrate, renew our commitment, and equip young leaders to be drum majors into the future.”
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Black Women’s Roundtable will host its 2nd Annual National Women of Power Summit, “Amplifying the Voices of Women and Girls in the Digital Age.”
The summit will bring together a diverse group of women leaders and emerging leaders from across the country. On Day One, they will make the rounds of Capitol Hill and meet with members of Congress. Melanie L. Campbell, convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable and president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said:
We’re coming together in the nation’s capitol to leverage our vote. In 2012, black women were the highest vote for President Obama and the margin of victory for many in the U.S. Congress. We want to tell our elected officials what we want, which includes ending the sequestration now and becoming a functional government working in the interest of the people.
On Day Two at the Faith and Social Justice Prayer Breakfast, I will receive the BWR Social Innovation Award.
It is an incredible honor to be recognized before a room full of fierce women. I hope you will be able to join us for a power-packed celebration of difference-makers and tree-shakers.
To register, go here. For more information, call (202) 659-4929.
Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A quick primer:
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) requires jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination to receive preapproval from the Justice Department or a federal district court in D.C. for any voting change to ensure such changes do not discriminate against voters who are racial, ethnic or language minorities. In 2006, an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of Congress reauthorized the VRA for 25 more years.
Those jurisdictions include the former confederate states of Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. What’s at stake for these states is an issue as old as the Civil War: states’ rights. Stateline reports:
But in asking whether a key part of the federal law is constitutional, the court also will reopen a debate that long predates the measure’s enactment in 1965. It’s an argument that was at the heart of the U.S. Civil War, and one that has seen resurgence in recent years as Republicans around the country bristle at what they perceive as meddling from Washington.
That debate is the battle over states’ rights.
On its face, the challenge to the Voting Rights Act is about how state and local officials run elections. But states’ rights have underpinned much of the opposition to the law since it was first enacted, and Wednesday’s hearing will feature familiar arguments.
The issue is Section 5 of the law, which requires all or part of 16 states to get any changes to election law preapproved by either the Justice Department or a federal court. That requirement, based on findings of discrimination and racism years ago, applies to most every aspect of elections, from technical changes to the high-profile issue of photo ID requirements that recently spawned court battles for states such as Texas and South Carolina. The challenge was brought by Shelby County, Alabama, and argues that the act’s preclearance requirement is unconstitutional on its face, no matter how it’s employed.
Civil rights leaders, Members of Congress and voting rights activists from across the country will rally at the steps of the Supreme Court.