Sunday, August 25, 2013

The March on Washington, 50 years later...

It is moments like this that I am especially glad that I live in Washington, DC.

This coming Wednesday, August 28th, is the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, the most iconic moment to have evolved from that day, is an image that I hope every American sees, as it was truly a moment to dream of what could be in this country of ours. Although his speech is especially remembered as a comment on race, the March itself was far more encompassing. People marched for Jobs and Freedom as the title says, but also for voting rights, for dignity, for the end of Jim Crow, and yes, for DC Statehood.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be a part of the commemoration of that March, on the same land that 50 years ago, America had a dream. The dream is still a work in progress, for sure. But what I saw yesterday was the very best and most intense moment I have had in a long time that left me overwhelmed by hope. And I believe that hope is a crucial component to the dream becoming real.

For a reminder of what hope is...

Definition of HOPE

intransitive verb

: to cherish a desire with anticipation <hopes for a promotion>
archaic : trust
transitive verb
: to desire with expectation of obtainment
: to expect with confidence : trust

It really is a fantastic word, isn't it? 

Waking up yesterday morning, even going to bed Friday night, I was feeling a palpable buzz in the city. After a rainy Friday, the sun made a spectacular appearance for sunset, and the air cooled and dried of humidity. Waking up to the air coming in through open windows on Saturday morning, I had that great feeling when you get when you just know it's going to be a good day.

I had wanted to begin my day at the DC Statehood rally at the DC War Memorial on the Mall before going to the events and speeches at the Lincoln. But alas, Saturday was a required work day for me so I had to figure out a different plan.  Having looked at the schedule, it looked like the Lincoln part of the program would be over by 3 so I could go for a few hours leading up to that, and that's what I did.

By the time I got to the Mall at about 12:30 (SO thankful that Capital Bikeshare had bikes and spaces available where and when I needed them!) people were coming in the opposite direction, and I was so worried that I had missed it, and that the March had left the Lincoln earlier than I had planned. But alas, as I made my way across the Mall towards the Lincoln, I saw that I was right on time...

As I was on my own, I wandered through the crowd intensely present and observing it all. I was so struck by the thousands of people gathered and the t shirts and signs that most clearly said why they were there. And it was voting, and dignity, and the end to the new Jim Crow, and jobs and freedom, and equality and yes, DC Statehood.


As I wandered towards the Lincoln, I was struck by not just the sheer number of people, but how many types of people were there. I saw every age and color, men and women, thousands and thousands of them, all having made the effort to come be part of this moment. And although their specific causes may have differed, it was overwhelming to see so many people gathered in support of what the 1963 March on Washington meant to them, and the hope that they all still have that the causes are still worth marching for.

As I walked and realized this all, listening to the speeches over the loudspeakers, I saw that people were smiling at me, as I pardoned myself past in the very crowded paths and meandered my way closer to the Lincoln. I realized that I was smiling as I walked through, and folks were smiling back. Such a simple act really, but it was that interaction that made me feel very much a part of where I was and what I was experiencing was an amazing sense of community on a pretty profound level.

By the time I made it to the Lincoln, Bernice King was speaking. In the spirit of her father, she spoke about unity and equality and dignity and asked us all to join hands. And we did, my left hand clasped in the hand of an elder black man, my right clasped in the hand of a younger black man. And we prayed for hope and that the dream would be fulfilled. And the older man hugged me and I hugged the younger one, and the event was over in advance of the March. 

I continued on my way, as it was time to go back to work, so content that I had come to witness this wonderful moment, and with a truly renewed sense of hope that the dream will be fulfilled by me and all those people just like me on the Mall.