Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at 50: Rally speakers say task is not complete

Posted on August 24, 2013 by UNITED PHOTO PRESS MAGAZINE


Tens of thousands of people came together on Washington’s National Mall Saturday to reaffirm the goals stated in MLK Jr.’s landmark speech 50 years ago.

Martin Luther King 3rd speaks during an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday. “The task is not done, the journey is not complete,” the 55-year-old human-rights advocate said. “The vision preached by my father a half-century ago was that his four little children would no longer live in a nation where they would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Summoning the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tens of thousands of people descended on Washington’s National Mall on Saturday to reaffirm goals the slain civil rights leader laid out 50 years ago.

But many in the crowd stretching from the Washington Monument to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial said the equality envisioned by King in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech remains beyond reach for too many.


Participants march down Independence Ave. away from the Lincoln Memorial during the rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington on Saturday.

“Five decades ago, my father stood upon this hallowed spot and crystallized like never before the painful pilgrimage and aching aspirations of African-Americans yearning to breathe free,” Martin Luther King 3rd told the sea of people standing under sunny skies alongside the 2,029-foot-long reflecting pool.

“The task is not done, the journey is not complete,” the 55-year-old human-rights advocate said. “The vision preached by my father a half-century ago was that his four little children would no longer live in a nation where they would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”


Students from Howard University march from campus to the Lincoln Memorial to participate in the Realize the Dream Rally on Saturday.

He and other speakers evoked the name of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen shot to death by acquitted neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, as a symbol of dreams unfulfilled.

J
Keita Gresham, 14, of Maryland listens to the speakers at the event.

“Sadly, the tears of Trayvon Martin’s mother and father remind us that, far too frequently, the color of one’s skin remains a license to profile, to arrest and to even murder with no regard for the content of one’s character,” King said.

Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were in the crowd.


A crowd gathers around the Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, including some with signs that depict slain Florida youth Trayvon Marin with the words “Not Guilty.” 

“He’s not just my son, he’s all our son,” Fulton told the gathering. “And we need to fight for our children.”



Singer Tony Bennett (center) performs at the 50th anniversary commemoration.

King called for the abolishment of “Stand Your Ground” laws used by Zimmerman to beat the rap.

The event commemorating the 1963 March on Washington was organized by King and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.


Fern Davis of White Plains, N.Y., attends the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Like in 1963, marchers called for equal rights and jobs that pay a living wage. But their demands also ran the gamut from gay rights to stricter gun laws and banning the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics.

Sharpton bristled at the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning a key part of the 1965 Voters Rights Act.


The Rev. Al Sharpton speaking at the Saturday event: “They had the money to bail out banks. They had the money to bail out major corporations. They had the money to give tax benefits to the rich. They had the money for the 1%. But when it comes to Head Start, when it comes to municipal workers, when it comes to teachers, they stopped the check. We want to make you make the check good or we’re going to close down the bank.”



“What do we want? We want the Congress to rewrite a Voting Rights Act, and we want to protect our right to vote,” Sharpton told the crowd.

The scene along the Reflecting Pool.

He noted that Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about the nation’s founding documents being a check drawn on insufficient funds for black Americans. He said economic opportunities are a check that bounced and was marked “stop payment.”

“They had the money to bail out banks. They had the money to bail out major corporations. They had the money to give tax benefits to the rich. They had the money for the 1%,” Sharpton said.

President Obama did not attend the rally Saturday, but he is expected to mark the exact anniversary of King’s speech Wednesday when another march will take place on the National Mall, and the President delivers remarks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“But when it comes to Head Start, when it comes to municipal workers, when it comes to teachers, they stopped the check,” he said. “We want to make you make the check good, or we’re going to close down the bank.”



The audience gathers on the Mall ahead of the event.

Sharpton warned the audience against squandering the sacrifices of prior generations.

“Don’t you ever think that men like Medgar Evers died to give you the right to be a hoodlum, or give you the right to be a thug,” he said. “We need to talk about how we address one another, how we respect one another.”


People cheer for the speakers 50 years after Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream" speech. 

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder praised the 1963 marchers for paving the way for the achievements of African-Americans.

“But for them, I would not be attorney general and Barack Obama would not be President of the United States of America,” Holder said. “The American vision at this site 50 years ago . . . has not yet been realized. But 50 years after the march, and 150 years after emancipation, it is finally within our grasp.”


Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner at the march on Saturday.



Hundreds of New Yorkers joined the march, many getting up before dawn to take a caravan of buses to Washington.


City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her wife, Kim Catullo, at the event. Said Quinn: “The civil rights challenges of the next 50 years are gonna be around gun violence, making our cities safe in a just way, and in ending income inequality.”

Among those making the trip were mayoral candidates Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, Bill de Blasio and Anthony Weiner. City Controller candidates Scott Stringer and Eliot Spitzer also showed up.

“I was born in 1960; to be here at this moment in history is truly extraordinary,” Stringer told the Daily News. “There’s a lot more that we have to do to get equality and justice in this country, but today you can’t help but think how far we’ve come.”


“This is almost like a reset,” said NYC mayoral candidate Bill Thompson. “It is time for this country to again focus on making sure there is equity and equality.”

Quinn, who attended the rally with her wife, Kim Catullo, called the event “very moving.”


Candidate Bill de Blasio, shown here with his family at the event, remarked: “We’re walking in the footsteps of history ... I feel great faith that Chiara and Dante are going to take up the struggle."

“The civil rights challenges of the next 50 years are gonna be around gun violence, making our cities safe in a just way, and in ending income inequality.”

Thompson, the only black candidate for mayor, sensed a new call to action to level the playing field in America.


The Rev. Al Sharpton (center) and Martin Luther King 3rd (right of Sharpton) with other political figures and civil rights leaders at the 50th anniversary march.

“This is almost like a reset,” he said. “It is time for this country to again focus on making sure there is equity and equality.”

As de Blasio marched with his children, Dante and Chiara, he observed, “We’re walking in the footsteps of history.”

Official Program for the March on Washington (1963), March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, Lincoln Memorial Program



“I feel great faith that Chiara and Dante are going to take up the struggle,” de Blasio told The News.


Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)

Chiara de Blasio, 18, stressed the importance of reflecting on King’s message and taking it into the future. She said it’s also important to “recognize that we haven’t completely made it, that we haven’t changed racism in America.”

The event also drew those who participated in the original march, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“Fifty years ago, I stood right here in this spot. Twenty-three years old, had all of my hair and was a few pounds lighter,” Lewis said.

“So I come back here again to say that those days, for the most part, are gone, though we have another fight,” Lewis said. “We must stand up and fight the good fight as we march today. There are forces who would take us back. We cannot go back. We’ve gone too far. We want to go forward.”

Obama is expected to mark the exact anniversary of King’s historic speech on Wednesday, when another march will take place on the National Mall and the president will deliver remarks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Suzan Miller, Mara Gay , Joseph Straw In Washington AND Bill Hutchinson / NEW YORK