MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Remembering the March on Washington

In August 1963, I used to be a brand new regulation college graduate beginning my final yr of intensive preparation to turn out to be a civil rights lawyer below the tutelage of an awfully gifted and dedicated band of attorneys on the NAACP Authorized Protection Fund and Academic Fund, Inc., in New York Metropolis. God was headed south to Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and Louisiana and North Carolina and I’d be going alongside for the scariest, most exhilarating, most difficult years any human being might hope for. However first got here an exhilarating, buoying second that was one of many nice days of my and our nation’s life: the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

I drove Ella Baker from New York Metropolis to Washington, D.C., for the march in my brother Julian’s well-worn Volkswagen Beetle. Bob Moses and Jane Stembridge, the younger white girl from Georgia who was the primary worker Ella Baker had employed for the Pupil Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), traveled with us. We stayed with my sister Olive. On Aug. 28, I stood on the Nationwide Mall with uncontained pleasure and tears with Bob Moses, Ella Baker, Julian Bond, and 250,000 others. {A photograph} captured our group within the crowd with our arms linked, singing. “We Shall Overcome” was the anthem of the day. The march introduced an entire neighborhood collectively throughout race and sophistication as a present of unity and a collective gathering of individuals in search of jobs and justice. After which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. electrified us all as he advised America about his dream. We shared that interval of hopefulness that Dr. King’s dream, which was additionally our personal, may very well be realized in America in our lifetimes with the assistance of our arms and toes and voices.

Sixty years later, the long-lasting picture of the march stays Dr. King delivering the inspiring “I Have a Dream” message he spontaneously added that day on the finish of his speech. However the central metaphor that made up the primary half of his speech was the bounced test America had written to its Black and poor residents. Dr. King stated we had come to the nation’s capital to money a test America had written almost 200 years earlier. He reminded us that when our nation’s founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Structure, they’d created a promissory word that assured all People the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However as a substitute of honoring that promise for Black People, America had defaulted on it and given us a foul test that had come again marked “inadequate funds.” Dr. King stated these of us who had come to the march on Washington have been there to money our checks as a result of we refused to imagine “the financial institution of justice is bankrupt” or that “there are inadequate funds within the nice vaults of alternative of this nation.”

He then reminded us of the urgency of the second. The Smithsonian’s Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition in Washington, D.C., has put the unique three-page copy of the speech that Dr. King delivered to the rostrum on show to commemorate this sixtieth anniversary. One of many pictures that jumps out from the worn typewritten sheets is the underlining of the phrase now: “We’ve additionally come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. That is no time to have interaction within the luxurious of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now’s the time to make actual the guarantees of Democracy. Now’s the time to rise from the darkish and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now’s the time to raise our nation from the fast sands of racial injustice to the stable rock of brotherhood.” As Dr. King delivered it he added: “Now’s the time to make justice a actuality for all of God’s youngsters.”

This message continues to be our cost at present if we might hear, heed, and comply with it. The Youngsters’s Protection Fund served as a supportive companion for the anniversary occasion on the Nationwide Mall on Aug. 26 — “Not a Commemoration, a Continuation!” Now is the time to make justice a actuality for all of God’s youngsters, and 60 years later, our arms, toes and voices are nonetheless wanted.

Edelman is founder and president emerita of the Youngsters’s Protection Fund.