August 28 holds significant meaning for many African Americans. This year, it marked the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy who was lynched by two white men near Money, Mississippi. Till’s death served as one of the catalysts for the civil-rights movement, and organizers of the 1963 March on Washington—one of the largest mass demonstrations of the 20th century—selected this date for their gathering. This year was also the 57th anniversary of that march. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the National Action Network organized thousands of people wearing masks to fill the Mall last Friday and commemorate the march’s legacy—and assert a new commitment to fighting injustice. It is not a coincidence that the Movement for Black Lives—a consortium of more than 50 Black-led organizations, including the Black Lives Matter Global Network—also hosted its virtual Black National Convention that Friday evening, where it unveiled its multipronged political agenda on matters of police brutality and beyond.
The momentum for cultural and political change stemming from the reemergence of Black Lives Matter demonstrations this summer has been extraordinary. Throughout communities across the country, portraits of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are wheat-pasted on building walls. Signs that read black lives matter are posted in residential and storefront windows, and the words have been painted onto city streets. Statues that venerate racists, segregationists, and Confederates have come tumbling down. Brands and corporations have rushed to acknowledge systemic racism, ranging between strong and lukewarm commitments to addressing structural inequities. The Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted to dismantle its police department. And school districts in Oakland, California, and Madison, Wisconsin, announced plans to terminate their police contracts. But as the end of summer approaches, will this transformative energy last or languish?