TO REALIZE THE DREAM—Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III, Marc Morial, Sybrina Fulton and Nancy Pelosi were among those leading the 50th Anniversary March on Washington, Aug. 24. (Courier Photos/J.L. Martello)
When Agnes Curry went to the 1963 March on Washington, she wore a button, and the first word on it was “jobs.” She wore it again last weekend, because 50 years later, it is still an issue for African-Americans.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment road trip for some of us from Pitt,” she said of the 1963 march. “We got on the train and when we got off I was struck with both fear and awe; fear because there were so many police, but they directed us to the right streets, and the awe at seeing all those people.
“I remember Martin and John Lewis. And we thought once the country saw it, this would be the answer. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
AND THE PEOPLE GATHERED
Curry said when she went Aug. 24, she was glad to have family with her this time, especially her great-great-nephew Kenyon Collins, 3.
“He asked a whole lot of questions. He was great, and we told him he had to come back in 50 years,” she said.
MAKING US PROUD—Members of the Pittsburgh NAACP and others who rode their bus to Washington, D.C., show their pride in front of the WWII Memorial.
(Courier Photos/J.L. Martello)
The differences, Curry noticed, were that the crowd was kept away from the reflecting pool on the mall, and well back from the Lincoln Memorial steps. She also said this time there were activists from a variety of groups pushing other agendas like gay rights or global warming, but they did not detract from the main issue—though Blacks have come a long way, there is far to go.
GET ON THE BUS—Pittsburghers on one of the many buses from the city that traveled to D.C.
“There are things that have gotten worse—voting rights was supposed to be secure,” she said. “That’s why I had my ‘jobs’ button on. And a White guy saw it, came over and hugged me because he’d been there in ’63. There’s a picture of us on Facebook, but now, I’ve forgotten his name.”
LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY—Sharon Ambush, of Washington, D.C., points to herself in a photo taken during the 1963 March on Washington. She was among those returning for the 50th Anniversary.
Curry said the experience would not have been possible without the Urban League of Pittsburgh, which took two buses to Washington, D.C., for the anniversary.
“They took us to the Hyatt so we could get refreshed and there was a pre-rally with Marc Morial (National Urban League CEO) and Rev. Jesse Jackson, and then over to the March,” she said. “That was the real difference. As someone said, we’re not fighting Jim Crow, now it’s James F. Crow III Esq.”
GETTING READY FOR SPEAKERS—Pittsburghers sitting, with Washington monument behind them, on the grass preparing for the speakers start to speak.
Pittsburgh Urban League President and CEO Esther Bush said she was pleased the National office had arranged things so smoothly for groups from across the country. She was also pleased that one of her board members paid for one of the buses herself.
“She had been to our national conference, so when the time came she just handed me a check and said do it,” Bush said. “The national office had t-shirts waiting for us, snacks. It was very well organized.”
Of the experience itself, Bush said it was a mixture of excitement and sadness.
ON THE FRONT LINE AGAIN—Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, co-founder with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1977-97, rolls in his wheel chair in the march. He was a key figure in the Civil Rights struggle and the 1963 March on Washington.
“It was about celebrating the past, but also about the work yet to be done,” she said. “It was gratifying to have young people from our Education and Youth Department and our Black Male Leadership Institute—a couple of them took a photo with Dick Gregory.”
“But again, it’s sad because you work so hard to achieve job equity, voting rights, and you have to go back to win it all over again with new people.”