The silver anniversary of Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington was commemorated on the University of Toledo campus Wednesday by a modest-sized group of about 50 people. By sheer coincidence, that’s one for each of the 50 years that have passed since Mr. King set the civil rights movement on a new course from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.
Those who attended said Mr. King’s powerful message still reverberates deeply in their souls and is as relevant as ever today.
“We didn’t care if it was 3,000 people here or three. It was something that needed to be said,” David Gant, 22, president of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity, which co-sponsored the event, told the crowd from a podium set up outside UT’s student union.
The event was tied to the ongoing controversy surrounding last month’s acquittal of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in a central Florida gated community who had been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter for the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American. Mr. Zimmerman, a mixed-race Hispanic, told the jury he acted in self-defense after being attacked by the youth.
Many who attended said they saw the verdict as an injustice.
Chants of “No justice, no peace” were shouted at one point during a march that started at UT’s southwest corner at Dorr Street and Secor Road and ended in the center of campus at the union.
“Trayvon Martin died before he had a chance to attend a university of this kind and Martin Luther King died so we could,” Robert Delk, 21, president of UT’s Black Student Union, another group that co-sponsored the event, told the crowd.
Before the march began, Mr. Delk implored students to follow their dreams and, above all, stay in school. He said he considered every college student to be a role model, because many youths aren’t fortunate enough to make it that far.
That theme was repeated throughout the rally: To make a difference, get a college degree.
David Young, UT’s Black Student Union adviser and director of the university’s Office of Excellence and Multicultural Student Success, said a lot of people don’t realize Mr. King’s advisers didn’t want him to include the “I Have a Dream” portion in that 1963 speech in Washington because they thought it would distract from a pragmatic call for jobs.
“We certainly have come a long way since Dr. King’s speech, but we can’t just focus on the last part,” Mr. Young said. “The best thing you can do is graduate. It’s your job to make sure the dream is no longer deferred.”
One of the marchers, Patricia Barry, 53, of Toledo noticed she was one of the few at the event who was alive when Mr. King delivered his speech. She was 3 at the time.
When Mr. King was assassinated four years and eight months later in Memphis, she was an impressionable young girl.
“I understood it happened, but I didn’t know why,” Ms. Barry said. “I didn’t know there was that much hatred in the world to kill someone because of their skin color.”
Ms. Barry admitted to having mixed feelings about the Martin shooting.
She said she believes race relations have come a long way since 1963 and that much of Mr. King’s dream has been realized, even if more work needs to be done.
“People have got to learn to live and let go,” Ms. Barry said. “People have got to let God do His thing.”
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