‘Get‌ ‌Your‌ ‌Knee‌ ‌Off‌ ‌Our‌ ‌Necks!’

Commitment March honors the 57th anniversary of the historical March on Washington


Photo credit to TJ Davis

Isabella Lowery, Reporter

Thousands of protesters gathered at the National Mall on August 28, fifty-seven years after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington. This year’s Commitment March was dubbed “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” by organizers, a reference to the late George Floyd and the manner by which he was murdered. Activists from all across the country united in their causes, demanding criminal justice reform and leading the fight for racial equality.

When King first gave his historic speech all those years ago, he told the crowd, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Almost 60 years later, his granddaughter Yolanda Renee King explains how there’s still progress to be made. “Less than a year before he was assassinated, my grandfather predicted this very moment,” she shared. “He said that we were moving into a new phase of the struggle. The first phase was for civil rights and the new phase is a struggle for genuine equality.” She noted the overwhelming amount of youth attending the march, and offered her encouragement. “We are going to be the generation that dismantles systemic racism once and for all, now and forever,” later adding that “we stand and march for love, and we will fulfill my grandfather’s dream.”

Other speakers include Rev. Al Sharpton, who highlighted the countless inequalities between black and white Americans and said, “We figured we’d let you know [that] black lives matter, and we won’t stop until it matters to everybody.” Jacob Blake Sr. spoke on his son’s death, who was paralyzed from the waist down after excessive force from police just days prior.  “Every black person in the United States is gonna stand up,” he said.  “We’re tired, and we’re not taking it anymore. I ask everyone to stand up.”

Though police reform was the focus of the march, voting rights were addressed as well, with Martin Luther King III calling on people to “vigorously defend our right to vote”  and Joyce Beatty, vice chair of the Congressional Black caucus, urging attendees to “go vote! Tell them to get their knees of our necks.”

Members of Frederick’s own protest groups were several out of tens of thousands to attend. Lindzie Gordon, a senior at Urbana High School and co-founder of Urbana United, spoke on her experience. “There was just so much positive energy around us…so many people who are all willing to work for change.” She echoed Yolanda King’s earlier sentiments, agreeing that “we can always turn to our youth to start a movement.”

Leon Adams II, an avid attendee of local protests and classmate of Gordon (12), said he’s “barely seen any progress at all” in the past years, and stated his reason for attending the march as a way to not only fight for his rights, but to seek “equality for anyone and everyone.” Gordon agreed in terms of progress. “We’re still killing black people in the streets,” she said. “The fact that we have thousands of black Americans in jail for nonviolent drug crimes is ridiculous.” When asked for her thoughts on how mainstream media has been portraying the BLM movement, she claimed that it’s unrealistic. “The media only portrays the violent protests because it gets them more views, but that’s not the reality of most.”

The two have attended and organized countless protests in the past few months, and are both thrilled about the recent resurgence of the movement. Adams hopes students in Urbana will continue to check and assert their privilege, and asks that white students listen to the experiences of their black peers with empathy and respect. Gordon said she understands feeling symptoms of burnout with the amounts of brutality seen on the news each day, but pushes young people to not give up the fight. “Keep signing petitions and going to protests. If there are none near you, start your own–that’s what we did!”

If you want more information on local protests and ways to join the battle against racial inequality, be sure to check out “urbana.protest” and “frederickunited” on Instagram and Facebook.