Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 8:40 AM
As thousands descended on the nation's capital yesterday, remembering the 1963 March on Washington demanding equality for African Americans, Clevelanders held their own commemoration, with an event organized by the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. ideastream's Nick Castele was there.
Hundreds of people came together on Mall C in downtown Cleveland. There, elected officials like U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge and State Sen. Nina Turner rallied a crowd gathered in a circle around them.
Some attendees were old enough to remember the original march, while others were born long after.
Gladys Harrison Dunbar of Shaker Heights says in 1963, she was young and not allowed to go to the march.
"However, this time I did go to Washington on Saturday," Dunbar said. "A hundred eight of us from my church did go together. And we all had different reasons why we went on the trip. But the reason that we basically went on the trip was that we want to see America be all it can be."
For her, that means combating inequality that leaves some neighborhoods without resources readily available to others.
"We need to talk about the lack of jobs," she said. "We need to talk about the poor housing. We need to do something about education, to try to advance all of the education for all of the kids."
Later, inside Cleveland Public Auditorium, Marcia Fudge -- the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus -- echoed some of the same themes Dunbar mentioned, saying it was up to them to see out Martin Luther King's vision, offering education and opportunity to all.
"Now it is up to us," Fudge said. "And for me it is up to the Congress of the United States to work together to pass a jobs bill that ensures a decent job for all of our citizens."
Nina Turner said the crowd assembled before her owed a debt to civil rights leaders like Medgar Evers, who was killed in Mississippi in 1963.
"We may never ever be able to repay that debt, but we ought to put a down payment on the debt," Turner said. "The way we put a down payment on the debt is to make sure that we fight for social justice for all of God's children."
One issue numerous speakers mentioned was the national fight over voting rules. With the Supreme Court having struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, and several states implementing voter ID laws, speakers said it was time to place renewed focus ensuring minorities' access to the polls.
Toward the end of the night, 94-year-old Willa Morgan recounted traveling to Washington for the march in 1963 with a group from Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood. She said she linked arms with a friend so they wouldn't get lost, and headed toward the Lincoln Memorial.
"And when we got a little ways up, our feet didn't touch the ground no more," Morgan said. "They had us up in the air, and we were just going forward to hear Dr. King."
It was a day she said she'll never forget.