Even though this incident did not happen to me, and I was not alive in 1963, I have heard similar stories from family members about the state of the country, and more specifically the state/treatment of Black America (particularly in Mississippi, where they lived), doing those tumultuous times. The idea of having to also use separate, dirty water fountains and filthy, poorly maintained public restrooms, is mind boggling to me. Being made to sit in balconies, with worn, broken and uncomfortable seating, of movie theatre for which I would have paid the same entrance fees as those sitting on the main floor in cushioned seats. How could Black America not dream for better working and living conditions? Why would Black America not be expected to want/require better working and living conditions?
With water hoses being turned on teenagers and little children because they dared to stand up, merely to be counted and heard, and with schools not only segregated, but horribly unequal, and people being senselessly murdered, August 28, 1963’s “The March on Washington For Jobs & Freedom” was long overdue on many fronts. From the coast of Mississippi and the bayous of Louisiana, they came. From Alabama and Georgia, yet two more states sweltering in overt racism, they came. They hitchhiked, carpooled, walked and rode in the back and front of buses on their way to Washington, D.C. They were joined by celebrities from around the world: Josephine Baker, Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Marlon Brando, Jackie Robinson, James Baldwin, Bob Dylan, Sidney Poitier, et al. Braving unbearably hot and humid weather, many still trudged forward and came; totalling over 250,000 marchers – with nearly 25% of them White.
Organized in just two months by Bayard Rustin & A. Philip Randolph, America watched as the marchers gathered at the feet of The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, assembling themselves for a day that many could never have previously anticipated. They watched and listened as Marion Anderson sang the National Anthem, with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee serving as the event’s Master & Mistress of Ceremonies. They heard remarks from the likes of a then 23 year old John Lewis (the current Georgia Congressman) of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, and A. Philip Randolph of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. And then came the turn of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He spoke of equality, Civil Rights and de-segregation. Most importantly, he spoke of the dream that he fostered for his children... America’s children, the Nation. For 16 minutes (well beyond his allotted four minutes) he engendered a fervor that rippled over the National Mall. He asked the crowd to “let freedom ring” for not only the oppressed, but the oppressors. Because, as the saying goes, "To keep someone down, you must stay down yourself."
With the Black unemployment rate double that of white America in 1963 and, ironically, still more than double today, I question how much have times really changed. With the actions of the KKK still being carried out by rogue neighborhood watchmen, who are allowed to cower behind antiquated laws after unjustly stalking and killing our black young men, how much of the dream has been realized? I wonder. Still, I too, have a dream...
& Super Black