by Rev. David Rommereim
We remember anniversaries, one after the other, and we mature with memory. This August marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. At that time, I was a 12-year-old adolescent.
The only concern I had in August 1963 was baseball...LA Dodger baseball. Having lived in Brooklyn these twelve years, I am reminded that the Dodgers moved from Ebbets Field, Brooklyn in 1957. Walter O’Malley, the owner who was responsible for the team’s transcontinental move, remains #3 on Brooklyn’s list of the “worst human being in history.” I was, however, in love with left fielder Wally Moon; third baseman, Ron Fairly; center fielder, Duke (of Flatbush) Snider; catcher, Roy Campanella; pitchers, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. How sweet it was.
I lived in a middle class white community of Los Angeles called Garden Grove which was south of the Coliseum where the Dodgers first played. I soon moved to Canoga Park in northern LA County, just north from the famous Chavez Ravine, or Dodger Stadium. My dad and mom were starting Lutheran Home Mission Congregations. Back then my brother and I would play catch all the time.
Opportunity stories were prolific. Most of the neighborhood stucco homes in LA were built out of sand, gravel, and wood from the Angeles Forest of the San Gabriel Mountains east of LA. The money for homes and businesses came from the GI Bill - an expansive tax base, and a military industrial complex, that provided jobs, low interest loans, and a low national deficit.
My opportunity story was nurtured by healthy federal tax rate of 91% on the income earned over $200,000. The ‘heart and lung’ movement of our Adam Smith inspired economy was circulating. The US economic system seemed to be working. Wealthy got their capital and the middle class was becoming the largest part of the American population. If such an economic cycle continued it was estimated the USA would end poverty by 1986. Even though we did not have a lot of “stuff” the fiscal circulation was good in my neighborhood. Congregational giving was exponential. On occasion, my sisters and brothers could afford a burger at Bob’s Big Boy Hamburgers and we even splurged once a year at the newly opened Disneyland and Knots Berry Farm. I had few worries because I was guaranteed education and a hopeful future. The neighborhood was healthy with secure jobs, health insurance, pensions, and solid schools. Eight out of ten workers were unionized. The future was open. We were heading to the moon!
I did not know, nor was I exposed to those news items pertaining to the March on Washington. The small 13 inch black and white TV didn’t turn to the news. I watched “Mr. Funny Button” and “Captain Kangaroo.” The photos of the march were never recorded in my memory.
Over time, the living memory of the March on Washington was viewed through the lens of others with a different opportunity story. I had to learn the memory because my world was not affected by poverty, joblessness, red-lining, or a low tax base that could not sustain good schools. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom seemed to be someone else’s problem.
Nevertheless, I learned this memory when I began to listen to the stories of another side of the American dream. Quickly I became unafraid to raise the unspoken issue of “racialized economy,” “racing,” or economic disparity, because unless such words were voiced we could not begin to heal and cultivate a better America.
Today, the March for Jobs and Freedom should happen this August in the same manner of 1963. In a similar way the faith community should lead the way. We should “pray with our feet” and work for economic justice.
The prayer is for justice-love. The faith communities could inspire the government back to the values shared by commitments expressed in the Preamble to our Constitution. Government policies should garnish the tax codes that make money fluid, jobs circulate, education a priority, health care a right. Such common sense asks us to go “back-to-the-future.” That hyphenated time warp could mean we return to the tax system, which lead us out of the house of cards into an economy supporting the households of America.
Just think if we returned to the values where large corporations find it good business to invest in the community and the hardest hid areas, rather than off shore tax shelters. As a Christian, to me equity refers to what Jesus spoke about as a value in the citizenship of the Kingdom of God on earth (Matthew 25). The Christ-valued-economy understands that neighbors are healthier when those on the bottom are resurrected. Even the wealthy make more of their wealth when they circulate monies into an economy built for all.
In 1963 the separation between the wealthy and the working class were, in no way, near the ravine they are today. Jobs are scarce. Education is plagued by wealthy pundits who blame teachers for the failure of schools, rather than the loss of revenue to support them. I need not look further than my own well-nurtured life, to explain that when money is distributed well everyone has enough, churches thrive, stewardship soars, and jobs develop. Schools are able to nurture the whole-brain through art, music, English, and math.
I learned about the people who led the first March on Washington through my friend, Matt Jones (Gd bless his living memory). He was part of the leadership of August 28, 1963. So that I learned the memory, Matt reminded me that by speaking through faith, their leaders kept them disciplined to non-violence. Their faith taught them to resist the disease of a racialized economy. He reminded me that the cultural illness of the day, captivated by race, developed opportunity stories of different colors.
This past week I tuned in to the song by Sam Cooke who wrote in 1963, “A Change is Gonna Come.” I wish Sam were around to sing it live. The song inspired me with the faith that keeps hope alive. Such hope is divine and deeply biblical. It is located in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth. The Way makes sure that the entire community is doing well when those who have the least are empowered. Such a walk is not too far afield from the golden rule, “Do unto others what you have them do unto you.”
In the year of 1963, 250,000 souls gathered around the Lincoln Memorial. It was the largest gathering in our nation’s capital. The living memory reminds me that many followed their faith and learned how to work together for the common good. Through it all, we remember faith leaders like Andrew Young (US Diplomat and human rights activist), John Lewis (the 13-term congressman from Georgia), Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who tore up his written speech and let the spirit ride him to “I Have a Dream”), Rosa Parks (who could take no more abuse), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (12-term D.C. Delegate to Congress).
Therefore, I have learned a memory that was not part of my early worldview. Through faith, I join in the effort to build a just, meaningful, and hospitable society. This is why I wear my pastoral collar as a sign of Gd’s grace embracing the public life of ministry. Without Gd, we are a wonton accumulation of DNA merely out to save self and, perhaps, by over zealous behavior, hurt one another rather than give one another love. To me, it is love that abides.
Rev. David H. Rommereim
 Present Federal Tax Rate on wages over $379,300.00 is 37%. For thorough analysis see “Us Economy Comparative Factors” Rev. Robert Emerick, email@example.com
 This was noted in the lecture by Heather McGhee of Demos.org. The lector was at Good Shepherd, October 2011
 Term was used at Good Shepherd with Heather McGhee in the borough wide faith-based conference on “Race and Racialized Economy.” www.demos.org
 A term best used through the writing of john a. powell, Racing to Justice, Indiana Press 2012
 This phrase comes from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschell, as he joined in the non-violent walk for justice during the Civil rights movement of the SNCC, and SCLC.
 Here I refer to the work by Rev. Robert Emerick who has analyzed the economic conditions in the worst of times and the best of times since 1900 to the present. It has become clear that the presidents who had vision for equity were those who raised the tax ceiling on the wealthy, distributed investment (others call this spending) into areas endangered with poverty. The most conclusive article by Rev. Emerick is called: “U.S. Economy: What happened? Facts, Myths, the Best Way Forward” (accessed through firstname.lastname@example.org)
 Matt Jones is a musician, songwriter, former Deputy of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and a public advocate in NYC for 30 years.