I attended the March On Washington August 1963 and was right down front when Martin Luther King made the famous “I Have A Dream” speech. I was mesmerized being in the presence of such a great man. It was a beautiful day and 213,000 people came from far and near. My friend Clarence Robinson, who lives in Clinton now, and the late George White, another fellow Clintonian, were present on that day, and we felt honored to be at such a historical occasion. We all had been members of the choir at Sampson County Training School and we walked through the crowd singing, “We Shall Over Come.” We sounded so good folks thought we were a part of the program and allowed us to walk straight through the crowd to the mounument. There were buses and people all over the District of Columbia and they were all walking peacefully toward the Mall. Many were holding hands, smiling and singing. It was truly a glorious ocasion. For many of us it was the first time we had ever seen black people and white people together engaging in a mutual endeavor. I certainly had never seen black people and white people holding hands before.
I was 32 years old at the time and am now, of course, 82 years old. I have seen segregation here in Clinton, in the military and all over America. I went to the Clinton Theater here when it was segregated and sat in the balcony. I attended segregated Sampson County Training School, grades one through 12. I rode in the back of the bus on my way to Ft. Bragg to be inducted in the U S Army. I was in the first integrated company in the Army at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina (1951). And the racism was humiliating. I have been discriminated against in more ways than I can remember. I have watched Clinton and America change in many ways and many ways it seems it remains the same or have gotten worse.
To Brother Martin Luther King, Jr. his dream about little black boys and white girls holding hands has come true. Yes, blacks and whites sit together at the movies, and yes black children and white children go to school together. But what about the things that really matter? What about jobs, the poverty, the crime and the voter’s rights. What about the “New Jim Crow” the fact that there are more black boys in jail than are in college? What about the bills being signed to hinder blacks and poor people their rights to vote? What about those whites who have money and power who still hold on to the hatred of black people simply because they are black? What about the racism President Obama is experiencing simply because he is black? These are the some of the reasons Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, 50 years later, in many ways was just that, a dream.
Why are we still talking about a Civil Rights Bill? The Bill of Rights says, ” We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. An they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Why do we still need to have a Civil Rights Bill and a Voter’s Rights Bill for black people?
Is there really a place in America for a black man besides the prison or the military? Is the best way for a black man to obtain the American Dream by rapping, playing basketball or football? As a matter of fact, isn’t playing sports the best way for a black boy to get a college education? Look at the so-called white colleges and see the small number of black boys enrolled, and they are all athletes. Education is mostly for the rich. Is this what Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream was about?
There were 14 teachers hired by the Clinton Board of Education a few days ago. They were all white. There is something wrong with that. Where are the black teachers in Sampson County? Black children need to see some positive black role models, especially in the schools.Why are black people still having to beg and march, 50 years after the March On Washington for their freedom and equality?
Why do we still need a national association for the advancement of colored people? Aren’t black people responsible for their own advancement. “If you don’t know your history, you’re doomed to repeat it.” Black children should learn about their history from their institutions, the home, the school and the church. That’s where I learned them. It is not the teacher’s job to teach our black children that “No one will save us but us.”
I contend the only place black people go “en mass” is church, and the only person they will listen to is the black preacher, so there is where they should be taught the power of the vote, about black on black crime, about vulgarity toward each other especially their women, about sagging pants, our elderly and the value of education. I learned many of the values such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” at First Baptist Church on College Street, the black one. Every member of every black church should be registered to vote and should be taught about the power of the vote. That’s where our strength lies. Every preacher on Sunday morning should remind their congregation that it is blacks not whites who are killing blacks and going to prison. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dreaming about a better America for blacks. He used his pulpit to deal with the problems of black people of his day, not to preach about “money” and “Pie In the Sky”. Black preachers today should do the same.
Remember Willie Lynch, “Fear, Envy and Distrust”. Are we still fearing each other, envying each other and distrusting each other to the point that we cannot progress? Don’t let Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream be overshadowed by Willie Lynch and be a nightmare for Black People.
The March On Washington was a beautiful occasion but we must make sure it wasn’t just a march.