Commemorating the 57th Anniversary of March on Washington
Remarks in City Park on Racial Justice in Our Country
Thank you all for being here. Thank you to my friend Alvertis Simmons for bringing us all together for this commemoration of a moment in history that’s so important to our country. Thank you, Alvertis, for including me today.
One of the reasons we’re here today — one of the reasons we say the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain, and the other names spoken in moments like this — is because you know and I know that what happened to them would never have happened to me. It would never have happened to my three daughters, one of whom is here with me today.
Until that is no longer true, we’re going to have to continue to take direct action and to put pressure to make sure we change the ways things are done.
I went to work in the City and County of Denver just after Paul Childs was killed. Until this summer, nothing had changed since then.
We can draw a straight line in this country from slavery to Jim Crow to the redlining of our banking and housing systems to mass incarceration to the murders that are happening of Black men and women on the streets of America’s cities.
Until we confront that reality, until we confront that truth, we’re not going to see the change that we need to see.
I talked to Elijah McClain’s mom, Sheneen, a few weeks ago, and she’s no different from any other mother. The last burden any mother would want to carry is to have their son murdered. The last pain any mother would want to endure is the pain she is having to endure. Yet she said to me, all she can do now is lend her voice to the fight, because she doesn’t want what happened to her son to happen again.
The reason we are here is to try to bear just a little bit of the burden that she didn’t ask to carry, the burden that she’s having to carry, because her son was murdered at the hands of police.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t want to read something to you, but I think it’s important.
In our news cycle today, we hear politicians and pundits lecturing about “law and order” and people “disturbing the peace” — but those same people, those same so-called leaders, seem to have no appreciation of the injustice people are trying to disturb.
That’s not a surprise. It’s been true since Dr. King gave his speech 57 years ago. And it was particularly true when he was in jail in Birmingham, and he was writing to leadership to explain what he was trying to do, why they should stop standing in his way, and, in fact, why they should join him.
And he wrote in that famous letter, to paraphrase him: The problem is those more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly say: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.”
We all know the difference, as Dr. King did, between what John Lewis called “good trouble” and looting. Alvertis knows that — he calls it the Denver Way, and that’s what we’ve been doing all summer. And we also know the difference between the negative peace which is the absence of tension and the positive peace which is the presence of justice.
And today, and all summer, we’ve been here to fight for real justice.
The purpose of direct action, Dr. King reminds us, is “to create such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”
That’s exactly what happened here this summer. Colorado became the first state in the United States of America to pass modern police accountability reform.
As Reverend Sharpton says, it’s not just about the demonstration, it’s about the legislation. Well in Colorado, we have shown the entire country that it’s not just about the demonstration, it’s about the legislation. And we passed it here.
We passed the same bill that Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have written and introduced in the United States Senate. That is the work ahead. That’s what we have to continue to do.
As we meet here today, and in the days that are coming, I hope you’ll draw a measure of inspiration from the reason you’re doing this work, and the people who have to carry that eternal, heavy burden that no mom would ever want to carry. Our job is to carry just a little of that burden.
Thanks for having me today and for being here today. God bless you.