The 60th year anniversary of March on Washington depicts dreamers’ memories, hopes and persistence

Andrea, Yolanda and MLK III King Photos by Roy Lewis

By Janice K. Neal-Vincent, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer,

Sixty years ago, approximately 250,000 people rallied for jobs and freedom at the March on Washington. They came with hope and united with the most influential leader – the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – who poured out his dream. In that dream the Baptist minister reminded the audience about the historical racial injustice in America and called for them to hold America accountable to its founding promises of freedom, justice and equality. 

In a CNN interview several 1963 marchers reflected. “We sat with each other; we sang with each other. I felt taken care of. I felt a brother and sisterhood. It was a melting pot like this country is supposed to be, and that was the best reflection of that possibility.” That was Cortez Todd (77) who stated that though the country has not lived up to its promise, she learned, “I have to always speak up.”

According to Eddie Lee-Payne (73), unlike today, that was a period when everybody was getting along. “We’re not there because too many people still don’t want to be. It’s important for the next generation to know their history and be willing to fight to preserve that history and their rights.”

Several leaders holding the “Continuing the Dream” banner

On Saturday the Rev. Al Sharpton (civil rights leader and founding president of the National Action Network) and Martin Luther King III joined forces with labor leaders in their 2023 March on Washington. They continued the legacy of King by reigniting the collaborative movements for racial and economic justice. A number of voices took the audience (composed of approximately 100,000) back to their recollections of Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph who tirelessly orchestrated the 1963 march and united Americans. 

A Yahoo news article noted that leaders were calling on America “to look to its past as it works to address rising racial tensions in the U.S. and political debates on issues ranging from black freedoms to the economy.”

Sharpton commented that the clock would not be turned back on what the “Dreamers” had started. He emphasized that despite stumbling blocks in the path of voters, they were going to persist and “vote anyway.” Despite efforts to prevent gays from coming out of the closet, “We’re going to lock the closet.” He further insisted that women will no longer be forced to work in the kitchen.  

Civil Rights activist Andrew Young

“The Dreamers are in Washington D.C. The schemers are being booked in Atlanta, GA in the Fulton County jail. The Dreamers will win. The Dreamers will rock. The Dreamers will stand up: Black, White, Jewish, LGBTQ. We’re the children of the dream. Let us march in the name of the Dreamers,” Sharpton continued.

“The question is: ‘What are we going to do?’ Dad would probably say, ‘Now is the time to preserve and protect and expand democracy.’ We must ensure voting rights for all peoples. We must ensure that our women and children are treated fairly. We must end gun violence. The 60th year march is a continuation of [my parents and their fight for social justice and civil rights],” said Martin Luther King III. 

Andrea Waters King stated, “We are not here for commemoration. We are here for rededication to the fight for the future where as long as America’s practice will be as good as its promise. Let me say to the women, we were unable to speak in 1963, but we are here in 2023.”

Among other speakers were Ambassador Andrew Young, a close adviser to Dr. King during the original march and a key figure in the civil rights movement and Bernice King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Leaders from the NAACP and the National Urban League also delivered moving remarks.

Rev. Al Sharpton speaking Photos by Roy Lewis

Former First Lady Michelle Obama said on Instagram that last Saturday was a day to remember the history. “We honor everyone who fought and struggled for progress. It’s up to all of us to continue their march.” She justified her comment by appealing to her viewers “to vote in every election for every office and ballot measure that comes up for a vote.” Community organizing, speaking to elected officials about issues are other essentials. “That’s how we honor the legacy of those who came before us – and how we do our part to change history for the better,” she concluded.

When fifteen-year-old Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of Dr. King, was asked by CNN Dana Bash her view of America since the 1963 March on Washington, she asserted: “We’re not where we need to be. It seems that the past generations and current generation have failed us, and so now we have to take on the responsibility to make sure that we do not make the same mistake, to make sure that we fulfill the dream.”

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