More Notes From a Native Daughter

Posted: August 30, 2013 in #31WriteNow Challenge, Current Events

Michelle+Obama+TRacy+Reese+March+Washington+8The commemorative Marches are over, the National Mall is clear, and the speeches have been dissected. Comparisons have been made about the state and progress of civil rights then and now. There were calls to action, words of encouragement, praise, and complaints of lack of inclusion.

Congressman John Lewis, is one of the remaining prominent figures to speak at the original March. In 1963 at the young age of 23, he was already a committed solider for civil rights. He was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and a Freedom Rider. He summed up his feelings and those of others the best when he tweeted on Thursday, “Sometimes I hear people say nothing has changed. Come walk in my shoes.” Imagine being age 23, the youngest speaker at the March 50 years ago.  I’m inspired by his perspective on the status of social justice today.

Two years after the March on Washington, Mr. Lewis suffered a fractured skull when he was struck in the head by police on “Bloody Sunday” during the March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. According to Lewis, he was arrested 40 times during the fight for equality in the 60’s, and now at 73 years old, he’s still a fighter. More info on Mr Lewis here.

I’d had mixed feelings about all the hoopla this week. I had my own personal childhood memories of the March and wasn’t sure if the grand celebration would live up to the hype. I felt we should honor those who’ve made sacrifices for civil rights on an ongoing basis, not just on anniversaries. I was also torn by the fact that just like 50 years ago, in some ways, the progress of social justice still feels slow. Then I heard John Lewis’s words yesterday, on the radio, in a news story and stopped whining immediately.

Fifty years after the March on Washington we have the first African American President of the United States serving his second term. I can’t begin to imagine how that feels for those who were at the original March. To see Barack and Michelle Obama, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the vast statue in shadow behind them reminds me of the enormity of the responsibility to stay committed and to continue to stay hopeful. The President’s speech is here.


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