For many of us the 1963 March on Washington has become such a thing of myth-making, and awe-inspiring beauty; we often forget that it was an act of profound love and organizing power, in collaboration with leaders we now know were far ahead of their time.

28 Aug 1963, Washington, DC, USA — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

It’s difficult to envision a world that could be better for all of us, especially when there are marginalized people who have never experienced that part of the world. But for better or worse, we cannot lose sight of our expansive imagination that leads us to believe in what we can create when we organize and build together. We have the luxury of learning from our movement elders, their tactics, writings, sermons, and words of hope ring as true today as they did 60 years ago. 

In Sept. 17, 1965 , Fannie Lou Hamer, of Ruleville, Miss., speaks to Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party sympathizers outside the Capitol in Washington.  (AP Photo/William J. Smith)

They asked themselves, as we do now, ‘how do we live in the reality of this moment, as difficult and gut wrenching as it can be, and still hold on to the hope of what’s possible?’ I often look at Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and so many others that did exactly that. They lived in the reality of a racist nation, determined to quell their demands for dignity and humanity—they kept the faith, not in spite of that pushback, but often because of it. With every new hardship, they were demanding more, adjusting tactics, and being in constant communication with those closest to the communities they wished to serve. They weren’t perfectas we all know women, who were at the center of that work, were excluded from speaking at the Marchor without their own hardships, pain and humanity. They brought all of that along in everything they did. Fannie Lou Hamer’s now often repeated phrase, “nobody’s free until everybody’s free” rings true for Third Act and what we’re doing in the world; we’re making a livable planet for ALL. We share this home, and we all deserve to live, breathe, and hope freely on it! 

August 28, 1963, Civil Rights March, Washington DC, USA— © Warren K. Leffler

We have no choice but to continue the work of making this world worthy of our efforts. We’re human and that work will feel daunting and often painful, which makes our emphasis on joyfulness and community both necessary and important. But it’s also imperative in a historic moment where joy and community are in short supply. We’re building a new world, where the needs of our planet and the people on it take center stage—while that work is always vital, doing it with joy and in commitment to one another makes it lasting and wondrous beyond our current limited imagination.

We are always learning from our movement elders, and we are so incredibly grateful for all they did to get us to this once unimaginable moment. We honor their legacy by continuing the work, striving for better, and doing so in collaboration with one another! 



Kafia Ahmed (she/her) is the CEO of Third Act. She’s been organizing for nearly 20 years in marginalized communities on issues ranging from housing, carceral abolition, racial justice, and immigration. In between years organizing stateside – Kafia worked in international development, working alongside pastoralist communities in East Africa affected by climate change and survivors of gender based violence. Her passion and pride for her Somali culture and family are part of her driving force for creating a better world – when she isn’t organizing she’s a voracious reader, an avid baker and a lover of chasing waterfalls.