The URJ’s Yolanda Savage-Narva Speaks at the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington

August 26, 2023 - Yolanda Savage-Narva, assistant vice president of Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) for the Union for Reform Judaism, was a featured speaker at the 60 th anniversary of the March on Washington. The event served as a commemoration and a continuation of the historic March on Washington, organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in 1963 to continue the fight for democracy, social justice and civil rights. Dozens of members of our Reform Jewish community joined with Yolanda and the RAC at the Lincoln Memorial to honor the past, acknowledge the present and march toward a future of progress and equality.

See below for Yolanda's full remarks and a video of her speech:

Hello Beautiful People. It is such an honor to be here with you today.

The wise Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Today, we feel the weight of history and of memory. As we stand here on the unceded tribal land of the Piscataway people surrounded by buildings and monuments built by enslaved African labor, I can't help but feel the gravity of this moment, knowing the sacrifices that were made for us to be here together. I can feel my ancestors whispering in my ear; it's your turn, be the ancestor you want to be. I can feel the drumbeats of the rhythms they marched to, forever etched in my memory. Can you hear them? Can you feel them? What's special about this moment in time and how does it make you feel?

Today, we also feel the promise of the future, if only we can imagine it. In 15 years, as a crowd assembles in this space for the March on Washington-75, what world will we have built together? A world without the pain of poverty; our young people would understand history and the real world around them, which includes learning what really happened to enslaved Africans, about the Holocaust and the beautiful tapestry of gender identity; we will have managed to slow down the destruction of our planet, and my body, would mean my choice.

What will our descendants feel in that moment, fifteen years from now? Did we leave them a path of radical resistance and holy boldness to work with? Did we seize the moment and make the March on Washington 60 more than just a commemoration, but a continuation?

Our Jewish community is entering the season of the Jewish New Year. It is the time we blow the shofar, the ram's horn that demands our attention as we take collective stock of the year that is ending and consider how we can do better in the year to come. To create the beloved community Dr. King imagined, we must awaken our souls, activate our spirits, and advance our march forward together unapologetically.

Watch her speech