This past weekend, thousands gathered on the National Mall in Washington DC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Marchers rallied early in the morning at various landmarks in and around the National Mall and later marched to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech half a century ago.
Participants marched for a plethora of issues that included, but were not limited to: voting rights, gun violence, DC statehood and labor rights. Two themes held more value than the others, however, because of their significance in the original March on Washington: access to living wages and social mobility.
Jobs have been a hot topic for the nation since the economic crisis came to a head in 2008. Since then, many Americans have found it hard to keep consistent work that pays a living wage. To add insult to injury, the concept of the “American dream” has all but dissipated, with many Americans waking up to a reality where they can barely make one pay check last until the next, let alone have access to the education needed to solidify a comfortable future for their families. Millennials are bearing most of this heavy burden, with college tuition hitting historic highs and lingering student loans devouring entry-level salaries.
Dr. King’s speech 50 years ago touched on the issues of civil rights and racial equality, but what he really highlighted was the need for a society in which every citizen had a real shot at happiness. He envisioned a mountaintop where all people not only stood as a random gathering, but also side by side. Dr. King saw an America with citizens who truly had the opportunities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Gen-Y finds itself in a dire predicament, in a world where fascism is rising again, climate change is threatening mass populations, and perpetual war is making peace seem impossible.
This generation has the opportunity to realize Dr. King’s dream and make it reality by using the same technology we use to socialize to mobilize. We saw minor strides in this direction a few years ago, when a global movement, Occupy, organized powerful rallies all over the world in the name of social mobility and living wages. Organizers used mobile technology to disseminate their message to supporters across the country. It’s time for Gen-Y to take the next step, and use technology to magnify a voice that is morally validated and motivated by the people.
It’s time for Gen-Y to organize politically, and vote to appoint representatives who are committed to bringing opportunity to all. It's time for Gen-Y to sponsor its own American Renaissance and use its buying power and consumer value to influence corporate responsibility. It's time for Gen-Y to take the activism offline and change the world from within the very power structures we question.
It’s time for Gen-Y to come up the rough side of the mountain and stand at the summit hand-in-hand. It’s time for Gen-Y to wake up.
Photo courtesy Wiki Commons