Keeping the dream alive

by Bill Nachman - Posted on Aug 28, 2013 - 02:03 PM

Photo: Fifty years ago this week, Mary Sampson of Foster attended the march in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech to several hundred thousand people. Sampson holds a poster from a similar march in D.C. she took part in this past Saturday, which was a follow-up on the need for racial equality, more and better jobs, and insuring the protection of voting rights. Photo by Bill Nachman

Fifty years ago this week, Mary Sampson of Foster attended the march in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech to several hundred thousand people. Sampson holds a poster from a similar march in D.C. she took part in this past Saturday, which was a follow-up on the need for racial equality, more and better jobs, and insuring the protection of voting rights. Photo by Bill Nachman

For 24-year-old Mary Gee, taking off work on a Wednesday was a big deal, especially because her employer forbade participation in demonstrations such as the march she planned to attend.

But Gee, then a member of two organizations that promoted equality for all people, decided that she had to take off Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963 to travel on a bus to Washington, D.C., where she joined friends to demonstrate peacefully. Little did she realize how important that day would be and, somewhat to her surprise, that she didn’t lose her job after all.

Not only was Gee overwhelmed by the sight of several hundred thousand people who also traveled to Washington that day, but also by the rhetoric of principal speaker Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his landmark "I Have A Dream" speech that day.

Fifty years later, Gee, now Foster resident Mary Sampson, sits in her waterfront home off Fickle Fen Road that overlooks the East River. She recounted in great detail how she attended The March for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 and a commemorative march in Washington Saturday which also drew thousands of people.

But the marches were markedly different, Sampson said. At the 1963 march, only men were speakers, she said. But this past Saturday, the speakers—men, women and children—represented a much broader spectrum of the population and not only included those promoting equal rights and justice for blacks, but also for women, lesbians, gays and others. "There were a zillion speeches," she said, with Tony Bennett and his combo even performing a few songs.