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

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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.)

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  • I came from a very different family than you did, April. You we're lucky to have enlightened parents who actually approved of your going to the March. My parents would have as soon I went to the moon as to a march for equality and civil rights. I remember hearing about the March when it was already over, and pondering it's significance. I was thirteen. I remember thinking, on one hand, that it had been a wonderful thing, and, on the other, that my family was sadly backward.

    Cherish that button from '63, your heritage, and your own determination to stand for justice. Have a safe trip!

    Posted by Marilyn Daniels, 08/22/2013 6:30pm (11 months ago)

  • Thanks April Smith for the "OnTime"article.
    Maybe one of your parents is the remarkable, outstanding Communist leader and auto worker, Lasker Smith-from Michigan.
    For thousands and thousands of us, the '63 peace march has spiritual meaning.
    My dad, from Meridian Mississippi, the hometown of the famed James Earl Chaney, classmate of our close cousins, was murdered for civil and human rights activity, along with Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, about a year after the 1963 March.
    Lottie Perryman, our grandma, chased the famed Motown Singer, David Ruffin, crooner of the magical, all American, African American, "My Girl", from her parlor many nights, singing there with her son, Dickie.
    Of course the great Communist internationalist and anti-imperialist peace warrior W. E. B. Du Bois, who taught us so much about the spirit Black Folk imparted to the Americas, was honored by non-communists and communists alike, at this outpouring of labor for peace and jobs- this struggle is a life and death struggle, which will continue.
    We have to continue, for we can have neither without continued unity and struggle.
    As Al Sharpton says, it is not a "commemoration", but a "continuation".
    We have to continue in the spirit of labor in the Red And Black.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 08/21/2013 6:21pm (11 months ago)

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