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.)


April Smith
April Smith

Michigander and activist April Smith writes from the Detroit area.