As Wednesday's "Let Freedom Ring" ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington offered president after president at the podium to offer reflections, both United We Dream board chair Sofia Campos and the Dream Defenders' executive director, Phillip Agnew, were cut from the program immediately before they were to deliver their remarks.
Both Campos, 24, and Agnew, 28, had delivered fiery speeches during Saturday's commemoration. However, their absence Wednesday was bemoaned by many on social media immediately after the Dream Defenders posted an update on their Facebook page during the ceremony. Agnew himself took to Twitter right away to calm the fervor:
We wont use this as an opportunity to bash older generations. They ran out of time. Youth will rise. And our time is now. #MarchOn— Phillip B. Agnew (@PhilUnchained) August 28, 2013
We wont use this as an opportunity to widen any divisions. Our movement is bigger than even this moment. Youth will rise. Our time is now.— Phillip B. Agnew (@PhilUnchained) August 28, 2013
Agnew and the Dream Defenders, who gained national attention and acclaim most recently for their 31-day sit-in at the Florida State Capitol in protest of school discipline policies and "Stand Your Ground" laws, wasted little time in converting the perceived slight on Wednesday into an opportunity to spread their message. Agnew delivered the speech he was going to read on YouTube instead, and requested that viewers submit their own two-minute speech (as that was the time he was originally allotted).
In his remarks, Agnew touched upon the plight of urban gun violence, school closings and underfunding, poverty, and gay rights. He concluded:
"Fifty years ago a man told us of a Promised Land. And for fifty years we’ve wandered and wondered. Where are the youth? A constant whisper in our ears."And so we have come, asking neither permission nor questions, but to say that we are here. Believing indeed that we have a beautiful history, and that the one we will build in the future will astonish the world."And we are ready."May the outcome always prosper over income. Peace over Profit. Revolution over revenue and all peace and power to the people. Don’t believe us just watch."
"This is about more than the speech," said Agnew in a statement released by the Advancement Project Thursday morning. "It’s about the voices of hundreds of thousands of people across the country that have been silenced for too long. Our generation’s dreams have been deferred for too long. While the words spoken amidst the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial yesterday may have reverberated throughout the nation, the actions, energy and love of the rising generation will resound in history books for centuries to come, like those of giants before us."