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'We Knew Something Great Was About To Happen'

Bob Ross, chair of the Prince Georges County branch of the NAACP, was 19, living in West Philadelphia in August 1963. He had just come home from working at a camp when is mother told him to pack his things, they were going to Washington. He now lives in Prince Georges County

You know, a 19-year-old, you listen but you’re not listening to what’s going on. So when I returned home, my mother said we was going. And then we just packed up the food, you know, cause you travel, you know they wouldn’t allow you to stop along the road and get food. And we got on the bus and we came down.

We didn’t know what to expect because we lived in a very protected community in Philadelphia. We knew we were not allowed to go across sixty- third street; we knew when we got on the trolley we got on the back of the trolley.

'63 was a very exciting year for us. We found out then that we don’t have to go to the back of the bus. And we could cross 63rd Street in Philadelphia. And so we started venturing out.

We really didn’t understand the total movement, but we knew something great was about to happen.

That was overwhelming because I’d never seen that many African Americans in one place at one time. So it was, like "Wow".

(The Rev. Martin Luther King’s speech) was very impressive, very enlightened, caused you to think. And that’s the reason why I’m here now.

Fifty years later the struggle is still the same. The only thing that has changed about it to me is people are able to go to work safely. But if you’re not careful, you’re on a slippery slope going back because the Congress is not working for all the people, and you see in the new regime coming in. And as Al Sharpton said, it’s the new Jim Crow. He just changed from a robe to a business suit.

So that’s why we’re energized behind the Trayvon Martin incident, as well as the Supreme Court incident, you know, Section V and the affirmative action one.