By Janine Jankovitz Pastor
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I want to share with you the experience I had marching for justice this past Monday in Philadelphia in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. On Monday I joined hundreds of people in Philadelphia for the “March for a Better America” march and rally with the MLK D.A.R.E. coalition (Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment). One of the major organizations hosting this event was P.O.W.E.R. (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild).
P.O.W.E.R. , of which the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College student government is a member, is an organization of “congregations from across the city, intentionally bringing people together across the line of race, faith, income level, and neighborhood” to fight against injustice and inequality in Philadelphia.
The march began on 6th street and Market street, the location of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and ended in front of Mother Bethel African Episcopal Church on 6th street and Lombard street. One of the oldest Black owned churches in North America, Mother Bethel was the site where in January of 1817 around three thousand free African Americans gathered to discuss the plan of the American Colonization Society to deport all free Black people from America and to keep enslaved Black people in America as slaves. This gathering in 1817 was the largest gathering of free Black people at the time.
Two hundred years later, in 2017, we gathered outside of this historical church to protest our concerns of an impending administration whose plans are dangerously similar to those affecting the Black community in 1817. We marched for the people in our country who continue to be targeted and continue to feel threatened. In honor of Dr. King’s message, religious leaders, activists, local public servants, and poets spoke to an energized crowd about our role in the continued fight against racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, classism, and all forms of oppression. A call was heard for the unification of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities and for people of all races to work together to fight injustice.
As the country approaches inauguration day, I share this glimpse of cross-cultural, multi-racial, and multi-faith activism with you as a sign of hope. The American Jewish people do not have to fight the current increase in Antisemitic acts alone. Likewise, we must continue to have our voices heard so that the communities who are also threatened and in danger, such as the immigrant population and the Muslim American community, know that they are not alone either.
For me, knowing that there are good people out there in the world watching, listening, and fighting against oppression filled me with a feeling of hope for the future of our country.