Momentous anniversary

A march that changed the world

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Image from LIFE magazine.
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Image via LIFE magazine.

I practically had to stop my car this morning as I listened to NPR retrospective coverage of the 1963 March on Washington on my way to work. I was deeply moved by an interview with Jack Hansan, who recounted his decision to go to the march despite his family’s disapproval. Fifty years later,  celebrating that day, his memory of being at the Washington Monument with 250,000 other like-minded people was one so rich, poignant and meaningful that he could not continue to speak. The music (I am old enough to remember Peter, Paul and Mary and to have seen them), Martin Luther King’s profound I Have a Dream speech, and the visual image of that many people standing up for social justice, fairness and equity carried far beyond those people on the mall. I wasn’t there that day, but I followed every second, like so many other people around the world.

Today, I listened again to the words of the song We Shall Overcome and had three reactions. First, that song moves people (including me) like almost no other. Second, the 1960s era was an amazing time in which people mobilized for social action and made a difference. (Not long after Dr. King’s speech, my generation marched against the war in Vietnam, and our voices could not be silenced.) Third, so much is happening today, including in North Carolina, that should arouse us to social action, but too few people are acting. I wonder why. Are the times so different? Did we believe we could make a difference then and do not now? Are we too safe, too busy or too distracted? I don’t know, but my questions started up again when I heard We Shall Overcome this morning.

Have a good week. Barbara

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