(WASHINGTON) — Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, civil rights leaders, activists and supporters of racial equality gather at its original site Saturday.
Wednesday will mark a half century since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963. A massive rally is planned on the National Mall for that anniversary, and President Obama will speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday.
But Saturday, leaders convene at the Lincoln Memorial for the National Action to Realize the Dream March, which includes a morning prayer, a series of speeches and a march to the Washington Monument, past the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, recently completed after a paraphrased quote that was sandblasted off.
Before the march, the crowd will hear speeches from Attorney General Eric Holder, the Rev. Al Sharpton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Myrlie Evers-Williams (the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers) and the parents of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Events leading up to Wednesday’s anniversary began in Washington, D.C., on Friday, with a two-day summit hosted by the National Urban League at the Grand Hyatt downtown.
With some help from Trayvon Martin’s family, civil rights leaders and African-American politicians called for action, blasting voter-ID and “Stand Your Ground” laws in a ballroom in the hotel’s basement.
“The dream is not a static dream, the dream lives and evolves,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. told the crowd. “The dream of ’63 was to end barbarism and humiliation. From Texas across to Florida, up to Maryland, we couldn’t use a single public toilet.”
“Tomorrow, we’re going to turn the heat up on voter rights, on jobs and on justice,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, previewing Saturday’s march.
Speakers repeatedly criticized “Stand Your Ground,” stop-and-frisk and voter-ID laws. The NAACP’s Benjamin Jealous blasted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Waters offered a scathing critique of the Supreme Court and its “slick, calculated, dastardly decision to keep us from voting,” referring to the court’s decision to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act that determined which voting districts with histories of racial discrimination were required to seek federal approval for changes in voting policies.
Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, spoke about racial profiling and equal rights for black teenagers.
“Just like this [anniversary] is historic, we want to make our tragic incident historic for all people by letting the world, by letting the country know that we will continue to stand as parents, not only for our kids, but for all of our kids, and fighting for justice for all of our kids,” Tracy Martin said.
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