BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Rev. Al Sharpton urged a gathering of Black Democrats to keep fighting for equality and justice.
The civil rights leader was the keynote speaker at an Aug. 19 dinner and gala hosted by the Volusia County Black Democratic Caucus at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanwalk Resort.
“This is a critical time in this nation’s history. A woman was recently killed because of a hate march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and today 40,000 marched in Boston, saying they did not want to see hate in their city,” Sharpton noted.
Criticism of Trump
Sharpton wasn’t shy about his criticism of President Donald Trump and mentioned how he protested against him in the past.
“I marched on Trump 35 years ago. The only position he took on a racial issue was that he took out ads advocating for five young men who were Black and Hispanic to get the death penalty on them for raping a little White girl,” Sharpton remarked, referring to the Central Park Five case.
“Those young men went to jail for something that they did not do. After 13 years one, inmate told another that he did it and that inmate told authorities. After a DNA test, it proved those five boys were innocent,” Sharpton continued.
On Confederate statues
Sharpton also gave his thoughts on the removal of Confederate statues and monuments.
“One would think a year after having our first Black president in that we would not be debating Confederate statues. One would have thought that we would have gone farther away from this.
Many thought that we had advanced further. You can’t advance down the road without telling yourself that you are down the road,” he said.
He further added, “Confederate statues were built well after the Civil War in the 1890s. It was for southerners to stop the Black right to vote, end Reconstruction and make heroes of those who enslaved Blacks. We shouldn’t stop by taking the statues down. We must stop what they represent.”
Not just Blacks
The nation still has a long way to go for equality, he noted.
“Many of us told ourselves that we were in a post racial generation. I remember when Obama was first elected. They said, ‘We don’t need civil rights no more.’ Obama kept us leaders at the White House. When he was there, we went through Trayvon Martin here in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri ,and Eric Gardner in New York.”
Sharpton called civil rights a continuing movement for all people.
“The frightening part about where we are today is that every step forward in this country forward in this country it has been Blacks, Whites, Latinos and others fighting together. One of the illusions of the civil rights movement is that it was just Blacks, but people of all races fought and died,” he explained.
“They understood that if you were going to stand up for anybody you had to stand up for everybody otherwise it was going to come back to haunt you.’’
Too much division
The speaker cautioned the audience about dividing people into groups and categories.
Sharpton stressed, “Stop letting them divide us. We are more in power together than we are apart.
We have too many tribal fights about nothing.
“It’s Christians against Muslims, Straight against gay, Men against women, Latino against White against Black, and vice versa. We can’t keep letting them divide us. We have got to stop all this bias and we have got to do it together. ”
On political process
Lastly, Sharpton spoke about activism, voting and being a part of the political process.
“It doesn’t help taking Confederate statues down if they limit your votes, deny health care, deny education and so forth. If you do not straighten out the structure of politics, you will not get the results,” he stated.
“We have to make this a nation that includes Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, gays and everybody. We too are focused on the 2020 presidential election, but we need to focus on the state, county and municipal elections. If we have the wrong people there, then we are in trouble.’’