They marched in the nation’s capital many years ago, but a number of people in the city carry memories’ of the historic 1963 March on Washington that is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.
Steven Small of the East Street had been a volunteer with the Northern Student Movement in Boston during that summer, and remembers the triumphant crowd “like a river flowing”. That march, Small notes, got him and others “starting to question how the government is run. People like myself got educated and were pulled into the social movements.” He’s been involved ever since he says.
The 1963 march had a large contingent of labor union members, 30 from the Intl. Longshoremen’s & Warehousemen’s Union. One of them was Green Street resident Jake Garry. “I think what happened 54 years ago,” he muses, “had a lot to do with acceptance by people who hadn’t taken a position before and during the crusade for civil rights. Now I see that they’re out there helping to stop the bigotry, and getting along together. I see it especially in the state, even though I see prejudice in smaller pockets within the state.”
How much have things changed in the 54 years since Martin Luther King Jr. stirred the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech?
“There’s still a negative lack of achievement, but knowing what it was like to be black in America, I think we have achieved a lot”, stresses City Neighborhood House Executive Director Cathleen Joy, who also went on the recent commemorative march.
“If you haven’t experienced looking for a ‘colored only’ toilet in an airport, or sitting in the back of the bus,” Joy points out, “it’s horrible and inconvenient and you suffer such indignities.” Not only are those aspects of segregation a thing of the past, she says, but “we had no black representatives to speak of, and now we have elected representatives in all categories. Just to think that you can run for office and be taken very, very seriously is amazing.”