Point of View

50 years later, an enhanced but less enthusiastic view

August 28, 2013 

Last weekend, I participated in the second March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to celebrate the progress that has been made and to acknowledge the work that is unfinished.

Being there with thousands of people from diverse backgrounds gave me hope of what America can and should be. The great speeches reignited in me the desire to continue to work for social justice because it is the right thing to do.

At this march, I used lenses different from the ones I used in the first march. Fifty years enhance one’s world view.

I was a high school student when I traveled to the 1963 March on Washington. The ’60s were tumultuous times for African-Americans, and I felt compelled to participate because I dreamed things would change.

I was reared in South Georgia, where I witnessed many injustices. Reading was my passion, but going to the public library was not an option. African-Americans could not attend the University of Georgia or any other public white institution. We were not allowed to vote. African-Americans did not have equal access to many well-paying jobs even though they had academic degrees. Georgia, for example, would pay the tuition for a black person to attend a Northern institution like Columbia University rather than admit that person to any public college or university in the state.

For these reasons, I marched in 1963 and listened attentively to Dr. Martin Luther King’s profound “I Have A Dream” speech.

The march in many ways was life-changing, propelling me toward activities and causes that enhance the quality of life for the masses. This year, for example, I participated in the Moral Monday marches organized by the Rev. William Barber, reflecting and feeling the same passion I felt at the 1963 march. Many of the issues are the same.

I left the 1963 march – which was ethnically diverse – so enthusiastic and ready to change the world. The 2013 march – whose participants appeared to be overwhelmingly African-American – did not give me the same kind of enthusiasm, but that does not mean I have lost my drive to fight for the causes that ignite my passions.

Each march had thousands of youthful participants, and it is with those youth that I place my greatest hope. When the nation celebrates the 75th anniversary of the first March on Washington, it is my hope that Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream will have become a reality.

Delores A. Parker, a retired educator, lives in Raleigh.

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