A personal memoir, remembering Dr. King’s historic “I have a dream” speech:
On this date 54 years ago, I left my house at 6 am and rode for 6 1/2 hours in a Volkswagen Beetle with my friend Joseph and his Mom. We traveled from Harlem to DC to hear Dr. King speak in person. I had heard him on TV often, but it was my first opportunity to hear him in live since it was the closest he’d ever come to NYC.
It was a typical hazy, hot and humid summer day at home, even the bugs had no air. The weather in DC was even more oppressive. But that didn’t dampen our spirits. People from every walk of life and every part of our great nation had converged on DC to hear Dr. King. There were about 100,000 of us. The impressive size was matched only by the diversity. We were black, white, old, young, gay, straight, coal miners, college students, married, single, celebrities and the differently-abled. I can’t imagine any of today’s leaders being able to draw a crowd as large and diverse as that one.
Dr. King told us to make sure we picked up any leftover lunch items. Actually, he told us “they’re going to be checking to see if we dropped any chicken bones on the lawn. Don’t.” We combated the heat by dangling our feet in the Reflecting Pool. But neither the heat nor our wet feet could stop us from mingling, making friends and joining hands to sing “We Shall Overcome.”
I have been blessed to hear many great orators in my life, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, JFK, and RFK. But, Dr. King remains in a class apart. That march and that speech will occupy a special place in my heart and mind no matter how old I become.
It’s truly sad that on the anniversary of this historic march for civil and human rights, the resident evil in the Oval Office is systematically trying to undo everything Dr. King lived and died for.
Fifty-four years ago I was happy and hopeful. Today, I’m fearful and angry; yet, determined to never go backward. I refuse to let hate win. I refuse to let King’s life’s work be nullified by ignorance and arrogance. #Resist