Students, faculty reflect on March on Washington’s 50th anniversary

Carley Hull

In 1963, thousands of people marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial in peaceful protest for civil rights.

“Being the 50th anniversary, [racial equality] definitely should be that much more of a wakeup call,” said Jarren Watts, junior applied engineering major.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was Philip Randolph and fellow civil rights activists’ attempt to bring awareness of civil-rights issues in America, according to the History Channel’s website.

Musicians performed, and celebrities made appearances in support of the main conversation: ongoing racial segregation and discrimination in the United States.

‘I Have a Dream’

On the steps before the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to people of all colors and called for racial equality.

“Bottom line, [“I Have a Dream”] was a great speech,” said Lennox West, freshman aeronautics major. “It basically defined equal rights and portrayed a message of [equality for the masses].”

Traci Williams, associate lecturer for Pan-African studies and journalism said she believes the problem with the ongoing racial discrimination today is because people don’t understand the content or importance of King’s speech.

“I feel like a lot of people feel that, that is just history and that it is not relevant today,” Williams said. “And I think that is why we are in the racial climate we are in today.”

However, Cinnamon Small, Pan-African studies outreach and development officer, said she thinks King should not only be remembered for his role in the civil rights movement but also for his work as a crusader for poverty.

“I think that people always look at race at what polarized people at that time,” Small said. “But poverty is one thing that really can unify us or separate us more over.”

A move toward racial equality

A year after the march, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin.

Although these changes were made 49 years ago, some faculty and students at Kent State still wonder if there is still work to be done toward racial equality.

“I wouldn’t say there is a lot that needs to be done,” Dierre Senter, sophomore, psychology major said. “But it’s still there, but it’s not that noticeable. The only thing that’s noticeable about it is the numbers in certain places, in populations.”

Universities are one of those places where diverse populations are often missing, Williams said, but faculty and administration are often working toward achieving diversity.

Williams said she is still judged by the color of her skin, and she still lives in a time where she has to think about how others will treat her.

“As a professor reflecting on the 50th anniversary, there is one piece of the speech that has always stuck out to me,” Williams said. “He said he wants his children to be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. I thought about President Obama, I thought about Trayvon Martin, and I even thought about more of a recent incident, of what Oprah Winfrey encountered in Switzerland. And it’s almost like its still a dream.”

Contact Carley Hull at [email protected].