August 29, 2013
By Leon Jenkins,
President Los Angeles NAACP
I was very young during the initial march on Washington in 1963, living in the deep south. Even though I did not attend the march, over the years seeing footage of the march, and Dr. King, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph and others speaking in 1963, I felt as if I was a part of the event. I was certainly a beneficiary of the movement being the first in my family to attend college, graduate school, and then law school.
I grew up always feeling I owed those who participated in that 63’ march a show of gratitude, a hug, and a thank you. So, when I learned that there would be a 50th Anniversary March on Washington I knew I had to go. It was finally my chance to give thanks and praise to those who traveled through nights and days from all over the country to be a part of history.
Many traveled without being able to stop at hotels or motels along the way, because these establishments did not serve African-American. Most had to carry enough food, water and supplies because Negroes were not served at many of the diners along the road. Some of the gas stations and rest stops had no place for us to rest or relieve ourselves. Yet 250,000 of us made our way to the largest march on Washington the country had ever seen.
Fifty years later I am here, and unlike the first generation of the march I had all the comfort of a five hour flight from Los Angeles to Washington, DC., I could buy food, use the rest facilities, and sleep with both eyes closed on my trip to D.C., knowing that I would not be spit on, dragged off the bus, injured, beaten, or kidnapped and murdered.
On August 24, 2013, as I took my first steps from the Smithsonian Museum toward the Lincoln Monument, I could not help but feel the souls of the past, whose footsteps I was walking in, and the voices that song, “LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING,” and many other old Negro spirituals. As I got closer to the Lincoln Monument my knees begin to buckle, my eyes teared up, my mind became clear, and my spirit lifted, and as I glazed up at the most perfect day I had seen in years I had a vision that my son will not have to come to the 100th Anniversary of the March on Washington, because “America the Beautiful” would have lived up to its name.