A diverse group of about 40 local pastors and community members gathered Saturday to remember the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and remind the Dayton community that issues of systemic racism are still prevalent today.
Marchers gathered at downtown’s Dave Hall Plaza to hear speeches by community leaders, join in prayer, sing the National Negro Anthem, and see several performances by the Silent Praise Mime Ministry from Summit Christian. They then marched to RiverScape MetroPark, where The Dayton African American Cultural Festival was being held.
The Rev. Crystal Walker, executive director of Greater Dayton Christian Connections, said the afternoon event was organized to continue the celebration of the March on Washington held on Aug. 28, 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“We are doing a celebration to mirror a celebration that’s going on in Washington, D.C.,” Walker said. “For those people who couldn’t make it to Washington, we invited them to come here to do a celebration as well.”
The importance of taking part in such events is to keep the civil rights movement going, she said.
“Even though we’ve made lots of strides, we still have a long way to go. So we want to continue to gather, continue to get different organizations together and keep the dream going on,” Walker said. “We still want to fight racism. Even though racism is not as much a prejudice as it was before, it’s more systemic racism.”
The event was as much about keeping King’s dream alive as it was bringing and keeping current issues at the forefront of social discussions, Walker said.
Other community leaders shared their outlook on the past and present regarding human and civil rights.
“Back then they marched for jobs and marched for open housing — decent housing. They marched and talked about a young man who was killed in the South and those who killed him got away,” Southern Christian Leadership Conference Dayton Branch Bishop Richard Cox said. “Today they’re marching for jobs and justice. They’re talking about the Stand Your Ground law that exists in 20 states across this country. They’re marching (against) violence and hunger and homelessness.”
Cox called upon generations young and old to remember the past to make a better future.
“I don’t want you to look at Martin Luther King Jr. as some … hero that we honor on the Washington Monument, or that’s entombed in Atlanta Ga.,” Cox told the gathering. “You need to pick up the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and you need to remember the past so that you can do something about the present.”
The Rev. Jerome McCorry, president of The Adam Project, said while he could have attended the events in Washington, he chose to stay in Dayton as a leader.
“There is something broken in America, and the reason I chose to be here today as opposed to being in Washington is because I support national leadership,” McCorry said. “I support civil rights and human rights leadership. I support what goes on nationally. But I refuse to sit back and watch Dayton not be included.”
“I watch as literally hundreds of thousands of folk gather in Washington to remember,” McCorry said. “But I wonder what they’re going to do when the buses get back to Dayton.”
Other groups represented at the event included the America Friends Service Committee, Dayton Dialogue on Race Relations, Dayton International Peace Museum, Interfaith Forum of Greater Dayton, the NAACP’s Dayton Unit and the National Council for Community and Justice – Greater Dayton.