March on Washington – right place to be in 1963 and 2013

I was 14 years old and going on my first march on Washington.

I had been at the march in Detroit a couple of months earlier. It was huge. It filled Woodward Avenue. It seemed to go on forever.

I remember going to a black church the week before to make posters for the Detroit march. I was the only white kid there. Didn’t bother me, I grew up in Detroit in a predominantly black neighborhood. When your parents are communists, you grew up with picket lines and a multicultural view.

For the Washington march there was a train going from Detroit. My older sister and I were going, along with several adult friends we knew. I guess my mother had to work, but she packed sandwiches for everybody.

I don’t remember a lot about Washington D.C. and the march itself on that day – Aug. 28, 1963. It was massive, and because of that we were far away, it seemed so far away – and couldn’t make out the speakers. It wouldn’t dawn on me for some time that I was part of this historic event. I couldn’t hear the passionate speeches, but I knew I was in good company and it was the right place to be.

I have my button from that day. It is the one button I value.

It’s 50 years later but we still have to march. We’re marching for Trayvon. We’re marching for voting rights – still! We’re marching because our schools and communities are being cast aside. We’re still marching for jobs, peace, and equality.

There will be four of us driving in this weekend. I plan to hear the speakers this time.

Photo: An image of one of the original buttons from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  (Courtesy of April Smith.)