Maryland Heads To The March
Organizers are expecting crowds of thousands on the National Mall Saturday to celebrate one of a week’s worth of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
The crowd at that march was estimated at 250,000; the National Park Service has issued a permit for 150,000 people on Saturday. But Gerald Stansbury, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, says that’s his goal for Maryland alone.
“We can make it happen,” he told a rally in Upper Marlboro this week.
Organizers at that rally urged people to take Metro to the mall and avoid the traffic. Organizers in Baltimore are filling charter buses. And they plan to leave early; 4:30 a.m., according to J. Howard Henderson, president of the Greater Baltimore Urban League. He says they want to be in Washington at the National Urban League’s staging area by 5:30 a.m.
The Baltimore branch of the NAACP and several labor unions are taking buses as well.
Henderson, who marched in 1963, said the League is trying to get young, African American professionals “to experience some of the things that we experienced during the first March on Washington.”
The 50th anniversary celebration is “a good chance, time for them to re-engage, for young people to re-engage themselves into the struggle that the civil rights community still faces on a daily basis,” he said.
Saturday’s march, billed as a “National Action to Reclaim the Dream,” is being co-sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and a coalition of labor and civil rights groups. A second, smaller march on Wednesday is called the “March for Jobs and Justice.” It is sponsored by the Park Service, the King Center and other organizations that were involved in the 1963 march.
President Obama is to speak from the same spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where the Rev. Martin Luther King stood to deliver his now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Obama is to be joined by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Andrea Harrison, chair of the Prince Georges County Council, recognized that the nation has made progress toward realizing Dr. King’s dream since 1963. The “for-whites-only” signs may be gone, she told the Upper Marlboro rally, “but other not so visible signs stand in the way of fairness and equality of all.”
She and others worried that recent events—the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin and Supreme Court decisions invalidating sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act—could undermine that progress.
Henderson said he could see things turn around “with the blink of our eye if we’re not careful.”
And he warned, “We have to be ever vigilant in terms of having our young people and our community understanding that the struggle is not over, that the struggle continues.”
Stansbury said the march would be one of remembrance as well as a renewal of a pledge “to fight the forces of darkness that would turn back the clock.”