Students and faculty commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by participating in a nationwide celebration of the event and Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28.
To mark the historic day – which brought the fight for racial equality to televisions and homes across the nation in 1963 – students and faculty gathered on campus to commemorate the efforts of those who planned the original march, and the progress that stemmed from their actions.
“It’s easy for people to forget an issue like this because it occurred a long time ago,” said Alex Yamada, senior psychology major.
In an effort to remind younger generations of what some had to endure to gain civil rights, The King Center created a template for schools across the country to use to commemorate the moment in history.
The celebration included ringing bells in unison, creating a mock march and watching broadcasts of speeches given by former and current presidents and civil rights activists.
One of the many people behind the planning of the event was Lili Gradilla, the intercultural program coordinator for the University.
“There are so many issues at stake that the work still continues,” Gradilla said.
Senior anthropology major Bryan Torres said that the march was a pivotal change in the way people looked at the plight for civil rights, and even argued it was the most important moment in American history.
Though some of today’s hot-button issues differ from those 50 years ago, the signs used in the mock march – promoting immigration reform and ending homelessness – reflect concerns similar to those of King’s day.
Though some participating in the event noted that we’ve made strides recently in the area of gay rights.
“I can’t believe I’ll tell my kids, ‘I remember when gays couldn’t marry,’” Gradilla said.
Some agreed the civil rights battles the gay community has had to fight are similar to what African Americans had to endure to gain civil liberties.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 last June came as a shock to many.
Senior anthropology major Bryan Torres disagreed with the ruling.
“Look at why we fought against it in the first place,” he said.
While the March on Washington happened 50 years ago, students still find it an important moment in American history that should be remembered not only for the change it brought, but also for those who lost their lives.
Amanda Larsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.