Fifty years ago, at the ripe age of 23, Rep. John Lewis was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington .
But this year, the march’s youngest speaker couldn’t even reach the podium.
Nine-year-old activist Asean Johnson of Chicago, Illinois marched “for education, justice, and freedom,” he said from a handheld microphone to a receptive crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday.
Johnson has risen to internet fame since May, when the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 schools. Thanks in part to Johnson’s impassioned speeches denouncing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to strip public education, Marcus Garvey Elementary—Johnson’s school—was spared.
“It has all the resources that CPS [Chicago Public Schools] wants,” Johnson said of his elementary school to MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. “You’re closing a school because it’s underutilized, but it’s not.”
Johnson won that battle, but he’s still fighting for every child’s education. “Every school deserves equal funding and resources,” he said Saturday. “I encourage all of you to keep Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive. Help us fight for freedom, racial equality, jobs, and public education, because I have a dream that we shall overcome.”
For the nine-year-old, that dream might be one of public office. Some have already called for the boy to run for a spot in City Hall. And in July, Johnson told the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education, “You need to go to our mayor [Rahm Emanuel] and just tell him to quit his job.”