The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Tuesday, August 27

March on Washington - 50th Anniversary

What a wonderful spirit filled experience. Instead of trekking to a far-a-way retreat or cloistering in a quiet pool of meditation, I plunged into a wave of humanity.

It started a couple of weeks ago with a call from my friend, Joe, at the Lafayette Urban Ministry (LUM). He wanted to bring a group of teens from low-income families to the 50th Anniversary commemorating the March on Washington – the one where Martin Luther King voiced his “I have a Dream” speech into history. The group from Lafayette needed a place to stay.

Immediately, I thought of 15th Street Presbyterian Church. This historical congregation involved in civil rights, would be a natural. Another friend , Bob, is the minister there and after a few calls, he made arrangements. The kids from Lum's Achieve program would be able to come to Washington. And I, who probably would have skipped the event, would accompany them.

Here we go. We catch the Metro towards the National Mall. Already, a few groups in matching tee shirts cluster along the station platform. I see logos for UAW, SEIU, and other labor groups. The Urban League and NAACP are well represented too. Others in family groups remember Trayvon Martin with his hoodie image shining life-like across chests - both young and old. I think to myself, “Lest we forget” and to be honest, I mostly had.

Racial profiling and Trayvon's image 

We exit and walk towards the White House. The teens are struck by how small it looks. When juxtaposed with the immense power of the US government, the White House does look out of place. Maybe, we should build a bigger one.

Achieve students from Lafayette, Indiana

I catch an older man wearing a different kind of tee shirt. No logos. It has a message with a lot to read:
One voice can change a room.
And if a voice can change a room, it can change a city.
And if it can change a city, it can change a state.
And if it can change a state, it can change a nation.
And if it can change a nation, it can change the world.

Your voice can change the world.

The tee shirt doesn't attribute the author, but I discover that it's from the 2008 Campaign of Barack Obama – the man who now occupies that small looking White House.

Ironic and yet hopeful, I think. A man who possesses immense power can be used to remind us about the human spirit where even one voice can make a difference. I smile to myself, “Keep the White House small.”

We make the turn onto 17th Street past the old Executive Building and move towards the Washington Monument. One teen asks , “What happened? I thought it was suppose to be white.” I explain the veil of gray scaffolding has been erected for workers to repair damage from the 2011 earthquake that shook the Capital and cracked the upper levels of the Monument.

She nods and scurries to catch up with the others. For a moment, I imagine a monument that is neither white or gray but shines with a spectrum of color just like the Lafayette group who's now merging into a larger and larger stream of diverse Americans.

Messages on placards echo those of 50 years ago. Unite for Justice. Realize the Dream. Protect Voting Rights. Jobs not War. And a new one DC Statehood. Those of us who live in the Nation's Capital still do not have representatives in the Congress. Taxation without representation. We fought a revolutionary war over this.

About ¾ of mile away. We get a glimpse of the Lincoln memorial. It's solid people except for the reflecting pool which has been fences off. There will be no dipping of tired feet in cool waters today. We decide to peel off and make our way to the Martin Luther King Memorial.

We walk through the “Mountain of Despair” and see before us a “Stone of Hope” into which King's image has been carved. On a low wall surrounding the Monument are 14 inscribed quotes. I think how relevant they still are. While reminding us of the controversies we lived through, they point to the conflicts still among us. Sure we Americans have made progress, but there's more to the dream of peace and justice.

Two quotes grab my attention:

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.

It's 1:30 pm. I walk back up 17th Street. I'm tired and hungry. I stop at a sandwich shop and take a window seat. Humanity is still flooding towards the National Mall. There are organized groups of adults, but I'm struck by the number of families with children. I wonder, how much are they absorbing?

For sure, poverty and racism are insidious. Who among these children will pick up the baton and become a drum major for justice? Who will make a career of helping humanity? Who will never forget the Trayvon Martin's of this world?

When I reconnect with the Lafayette teens, I make a point asking each of them about their future plans. I'm struck by how engaging they are. One wants to be a dentist, a couple like the idea of being a vet and several want to get to college. 

Obviously they have absorbed lots and been energized by the day. I have a real positive feeling about this Achieve group. I make it a point of saying to each how I think they'll do good in school this year. "I have that feeling, I say. They beam with confidence.  I then think to myself, “Maybe, they'll find a way to make the world a better place.”

Already expressing leadership, students give interviews to TV 18 Lafayette, Indiana

The March on Washington is over, but my spirit is filled and my awareness has soared.  I'm thinking we can make this world a better place.