Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Local Lens on March on Washington

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Local Lens on March on Washington

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

When about 250,000 people descended on Washington, D.C., in 1963, they didn't just go to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. lay out dreams of freedom but to demand the tools to make those dreams real. Those tools were jobs.

That's why the full name of the march, of which the 50th anniversary was celebrated last week, was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

And that's why Alvin Brown, the first African-American mayor of this Deep South city, believes one of the best ways that he can honor the legacy of King and the marchers is to make jobs accessible to people whose communities have been shackled in poverty and pathology.

IT STARTS WITH VISION

"I think Dr. King had a vision, and the Bible said that where there's no vision the people perish, and he had a vision for everyone in America," Brown told me.

"When you think about the struggles of the 1960s, what it meant to me is that if you play by the rules and if you empower people, you can succeed.

"All Dr. King was saying is that we have to work together, that we're one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all ... which means economic opportunity and education for all.

"Education and jobs give you freedom because it gives you options."

Right now, Brown said, he's excited about the possibility of Vistakon expanding in Jacksonville - and creating jobs that pay about $65,000 a year - as well as the Jacksonville Port Authority's job-generating potential.

Any focus on the port as well as downtown Jacksonville has the capability to bring opportunities closer to people in the city's job-strapped areas north and west of the St. Johns River.

"The Northside has the infrastructure," Brown said. "But when those jobs are available, we need to make sure our young people are trained and ready for them. …

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