Fifty years later…
By Mitch Ceasar
Fifty years ago, August 28, 1963 will forever be marked as the greatest demonstration for equal rights and dignity. This was the March On Washington D.C. for Jobs and Freedom. It was about Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” soaring oratory. It was about the 250,000 people present who yearned for the high ideals we always claimed were possible. It was about a city braced for violence which never appeared, but rather a “beatific calm”. It was a non- violent citizens’ movement. It was about a nation at the crossroads of its soul.
The oratory provided was enhanced by an evolving medium called television. Viewers could hear and watch the actual desires, hopes, and dreams in their own homes. The emotion was absorbed by millions. Additionally, young Americans now called Baby Boomers could understand the “call.” Many credit this day as the impetus for the anti-war protestors of the late 1960s.
This scene pushed a compelled nation towards the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. All did not go smoothly after the speech. There were many horrifying reminders that were later acted out. They included Emmett Till’s destroyed body and the murder of innocents, that being the “Four Little Girls” in their church basement in Birmingham, Alabama. The speech fifty years ago was bold at minimum and extremely risky in reality.
It is interesting to note that the Great Emancipator, President Abraham Lincoln, sat majestically behind the lectern, thus providing critical symbolism. It was from that sense of geography that Dr. King had noted that the memorial had become that “hallowed spot to remind Americans of the fierce urgency of now.”
Currently, we are still struggling against the chains of voter suppression. Still arguing about the rights of citizenship and equal access to opportunity. The US Supreme Court has struck down pieces of the Voting Rights Act. This has provided a negative opportunity which would make it more difficult or impossible, for the young, the aged, and the infirm to voice their in-tent at the ballot box. The fight continues, but people of good will must endure.
It all begins with us. Freedom for all is not easy. This is precisely why the fight is worthy. I have tried to instill in my children that ethos. My son has volunteered for a food bank in Washington, DC., for many years and my daughter has begun her public service job assisting in some of the neediest schools, also in Washington, D.C. I am grateful to my children who understand that we are all in this together.
I agree with Dr. King’s words when he aspires for a “day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gen-tiles…will be able to join hands,” Like Dr. King, I Still Have A Dream.