Perspectives: The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

The following post from Rational 360 intern Shay Blackwell is about her experience at the 50th anniversary event commemorating the March on Washington.

“I have a feeling we won’t be in the front row,” a graying older man said jokingly as he breezed pass me on the crowded sidewalk. I peered to the left at the throngs of people. He was right. The pulsing calm of the crowd was inviting and I eventually picked a spot in the sea of people. People whose diverse complexions color the globe were standing on the National Mall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I arrived just in time to see Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. King. She stood there every bit the daughter of a commanding orator and spoke of the injustices still left to fight.

Next was the ringing of a bell recovered from the church in Birmingham, Alabama, where a bomb killed four little girls in 1963. There were audible gasps and murmurings of approval in the crowd as the origin of the bell was announced. From early in my life I could identify with those girls. They had ventured off to the restroom before church to tighten their bows and socialize a bit, like my friends and I had often done. It always troubled me that they were cheated of the succeeding years of that Sunday morning ritual. Yesterday, I was reminded that the bombing made Americans pay more attention to the violence in the South and confront the wrongs against African Americans during that era.


Then, the familiar voice of President Obama soon emerged. A hush came over the crowd and we drew closer. Obama recalled the history of the march and the promises of our Founding Fathers. He reminded us that the March on Washington was a march for jobs, and drew parallels to the ever-widening income gap within the country today. What resonated with me most were his words on courage. He stated that the foundation of courage was the ability to turn towards others instead of turning away or on them. That moment confirmed what I’ve known for so long, that we are more alike than we are different and we can get much further by working together.

I exited the Mall grateful for the perseverance of those who marched and in awe of those who suffered so that I can move more freely throughout the world. I wasn’t in the front row, but I was surrounded by people unified in paying respect to a dream that, although not fully realized, still greatly altered history.


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