My Experience at the Commemoration of MLK’s I Have a Dream Speech
It is with much excitement that I write this blog post – a first for me – on the Cisco Inclusion and Diversity blog. On August 27th I traveled from San Jose, CA to Washington D.C. to attend the 50th anniversary and commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic I Have a Dream speech held at the Lincoln Memorial. Hopefully, many of you were able to watch the event, as it was truly a wonderful celebration of Dr. King’s legacy. What I want to share with you is what I experienced being there on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 – standing in line at 7:00 am, through the event’s conclusion that afternoon.
I arrived at the gate to the entrance of the event for individuals with tickets right around 7:00 am. There were only a few of us there – myself, a group of what appeared to be three friends, a woman who was alone, and volunteers that were beginning to file in in white shirts and khaki pants. I immediately asked security if I was at the correct location and showed him my ticket. He replied that I was in the right place, and that I should stand in line until they started letting people into the event at 9:00 am.
During the two hour wait I learned that one of the women in line was named Mo. Mo was beaming with joy. It was Mo’s birthday, and she said there was no place she would rather be than at this event. Two of the others in line were Andrea and Donna. Andrea is a PhD student, and Donna is her friend – they sing in the church choir together.
In time we all began to talk – about from where we’d traveled, why we’d come, about trying to stay dry in the rain… It did start to rain, but we barely noticed. Soon the press began to arrive. There was a small group of female reporters standing close to us. They were from a radio station in Nassau, Bahamas, GEMS 105.9. The stations website promotes “Strengthening our WOMEN, and uplifting our MEN”. One of the station’s DJ’s – Ghandi- asked if she could interview us, and asked each of us why we were there. My response – “ I am a woman, I am black, I am a mother, and I work in Inclusion and Diversity. Equal rights are always top of mind for me. I am here to celebrate the work and sacrifices made by Dr. King and countless others involved in the civil rights movement. I am here to reflect on the progress that has been made over the past 50 years. I am here because I feel I sometimes take for granted many of these civil rights – because I have enjoyed them my whole life. I am here so as not to be complacent with the current state, and to ask myself what I can do to help further Dr. King’s dreams of justice, equal rights and equality. And finally, I am here making new friends and creating memories that I will have for a lifetime”.
And when the gates finally opened at 9:00 am, security told me what I’d feared all along – I was not at the correct location for people holding the ticket I possessed. Visibly disappointed, Andrea with whom I’d now stood in line for the past two hours, called a colleague who was further back in line and secured the appropriate ticket on my behalf. And so, I was able to enjoy all of the day’s inspirational speeches, and uplifting songs with a great seat and with these wonderful new friends. Throughout the day, we cheered, we cried together, and we applauded the diversity of the groups that were present – including women who were not among the speakers in 1963.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend this once in a lifetime event. However, now that it is over the true work begins. I have been, and will continue to, reflect upon all that was said. I will continuously challenge myself to think critically about all that is going on in my community, in the country in which I live, and the world that we all share. You see, the event was a fantastic experience – one that I will never forget – but I must now decide what role I will play in promoting equal rights for all of us. A quote of Dr. King’s that was repeated many times throughout the day is “injustice for one is injustice for all”, I believe this to be true.
Please join me and take the time to reflect on the legacy and lessons of Dr. King, and think about what differences we can make, and the steps we can take to continue in our quest to achieve his dream.