A day to remember: On Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Black and white, young and old, poor and rich, they were mostly everyday people who came in buses, trains, cars and planes from nearly every state and from all walks of life. It was a work day in the middle of the week when the largest peaceful protest ever assembled sought justice and equal rights for African Americans.
Miamian Felicia Lopez-Walker was not there, but she grew up hearing her parents recalling the event. Frank and Roberta Lopez, former Sarasota residents, had recently moved to D.C.
Felicia, then only 3 years old, stayed at home with friends. Arriving near the site of the march, her parents parked their car, walked nine blocks and according to her mother, “we wiggled our way close [to the stage] to hear everything. Being there and hearing those speeches for the first time we believed that change could come.”
It was a warm overcast day. Frank and Roberta joined others listening to civil rights leaders organized by James Farmer Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Roy Wilkins and Whitney M. Young. The last speaker was King, whose famous “I Have A Dream” speech has become a popular discourse for change. The days event was broadcast on national and international television and radio and was seen and heard around the world.
Fifty years later, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, thousands of buses filled with church, civic and social groups will be in Washington, D.C. It is anticipated that a diverse racial and ethnic group of demonstrators will gather at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with devices to email, blog, tweet, tumblr and instagram the days event through social media. This time, they will be able to send and receive immediate responses worldwide to and from those not in attendance.
The technology has changed, and many of the issues such as civil rights, voting rights, police use of force, equal pay, and racial discrimination have shifted and become more complex .
A commemorative forum will be hosted in Miami by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, continuing the dialogue to foster change. This forum, the diocese’s first in a series about race, is co-sponsored by the Office of Immigration and Social Justice Ministries, the Theodore R. Gibson chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians and the Diocesan Anti-Racism Commission. On Sunday, Aug. 25, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Church of the Incarnation in the J. Kenneth Major Hall, 1835 NW 54th St., information will be presented by Tamara F. Lawson, professor of law at St. Thomas University, Wilfredo A. Ruiz, legal counsel for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Ms. Kimberly Rodriguez, a member of the Dream Defenders.
According to Gay Outler, chair of the Anti-Racism Committee for the diocese and moderator of the forum, “in the aftermath of the killing of unarmed teenagers Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot by a civilian patrolman and Israel Hernandez-Llach, who died after police him with a Taser, there is still a great need to continue discussing the issues of race and racial inequalities.”
Each day a life is lost to racism, it is a day to seek change. The community is encouraged to attend the forum.