The August events honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, for example, were originally planned as a commemorative tribute.
“But now, people see the greater need or urgency and want to participate,” Morial said. “There’s something to march for.”
Most interesting, he said, was the spirit of activism among young professionals at the convention. On Friday, during a panel presentation before a packed auditorium, Jackson and Al Sharpton stressed the importance of action.
Keisha Robinson, 34, of McLean stood and asked a question. She wanted to know whether there was a broader vision than “just marching.”
“How can we do more?” she asked.
Jackson interrupted another panelist to answer.
“I’m concerned about those who are tired of marching who never marched,” he said. “I never did just march. Some of us never just marched. . . . We never lost a battle because we fought.”
Still, Robinson’s question reflected her different reality. Never having faced the overt discrimination that afflicted their parents and grandparents, many young people in attendance saw the Urban League primarily as a vehicle for professional networking. Rather than sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters, they often just do lunch.
At the luncheon for young professionals, placards on the dining tables grouped people by profession. A table for “engineers,” one for “project managers,” “consultants,” “elected officials.”
Brandi Richards, president of the league’s young professional group, said the conference had a different air this year.
“A lot of us were impacted by the Zimmerman verdict,’’ she said. “It impacted us in a way that forced us to really understand our vulnerability and showed us the need for change.”
She is not sure, however, whether this fervor will continue. The first big test will come next month, with anniversary celebration of the March on Washington. There, she said, they are prepared to stand in the sun and demand change, like earlier generations.
But, Keisha Robinson suggests, something more or different will be required.
“There’s an evolution to everything,” Robinson said in an interview after Jackson’s passionate retort. “Sometimes you have to change strategies for the time. And these are new times.”