27 Aug 2013 Participant in 1963 March on Washington Shares Memories of that Historic Day
Washington, D.C. – A prominent black conservative who attended the 1963 “March on Washington” civil rights rally and heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech firsthand is sharing his reminiscences about that landmark event in light of its 50th anniversary August 28.
Project 21’s Jimmie Hollis has shared some of his recollections in an audio interview conducted with Project 21. Some excerpts:
The first thing that struck me… was the amount of people. It was extremely crowded. My friend and I managed to work our way up towards the middle of the crowd. It was just amazing; when [Dr. Martin Luther King] began to speak it was just electrifying. It gave you goose bumps, and it still does today when I hear his speech.
…What I took away from his speech was the intensity of his message, which, to me, was the ‘can-do’ attitude, the empowering, the uplifting… not the victimhood or the downer or ‘you owe me,’ it was we can do… we can become anything you want to, and what he was asking the establishment to do was, simply, get rid of the barriers. You get rid of the barriers and we will get it for ourselves. It was a dire contrast to what it is today, where everyone seems to be wanting to be a victim and can’t achieve anything because for some reason there’s someone else pulling them down, and it seems to be so easy for someone to claim to be a victim rather than get out there and try hard and do hard.
Hollis credits, in part, the inspiration he received from King’s speech to his ability to be successful and achieve a great deal during his career in the Air Force. He continued:
It was just an amazing crowd. But the attitude was different. I saw a lot of people with hope in their eyes with being empowered and a lot of tears from people that were getting the message of hope, getting the message that ‘we can do this.’ And I’m not seeing that today.
Of the commemorative “Jobs, Justice & Freedom” rally held in Washington August 24 by Al Sharpton, the National Action Network and Martin Luther King III, Hollis said, “The majority of those people and groups that attended there would have been considered enemies of the black people by Dr. King, because these were the people that continued to try to hold us down by making us victims… The dream has been twisted… it’s sad. It’s really, really sad.”
The audio of the entire 12-minute interview with Jimmie Hollis is available online at http://youtu.be/Q37CS35566w.
Other Project 21 members are also commenting on this historic anniversary.
Project 21’s Gregory Parker, a former elected official in Central Texas who was born after the March, says the March on Washington helped make it possible for him to serve in elected office generations later:
Fifty years ago, it was unheard of to have black elected officials in Texas. For 150 years, in fact, there were no blacks elected to state office.
Things have changed for blacks aspiring for public office since the March on Washington, and Texas in particular has seen a lot of change in its politics. There are at least six statewide black officials I am aware of who were elected in Texas since 1992, and there are many more serving in congressional and local capacities. There have also been countless black candidates since the March on Washington.
Project 21’s Archbishop Council Nedd II, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church and chairman of In God We Trust, says the March on Washington sent a dramatic message:
I was born after the March, but what came out of it is something I cannot forget — nor dare I want to forget.
In my missionary work, I interact with older people who remember when they could only dream of the rights they enjoy today and the very young whose only limits to opportunity are the limits they impose on themselves. In a grand showing of support for the civil rights of all, the March on Washington sent a dramatic message to all Americans that things had to change. And they did.
Now, 50 years later, we need to congratulate ourselves on how we have changed. We must shake off the cobwebs of past afflictions and of bad feelings. Our challenge now is to motivate those who are crestfallen — those who do not realize their own potential and who just need guidance in fulfilling their destiny. There are too many who would seek to continue to embrace fear and loathing. But those who are wise, and remember the lessons taught by Dr. King and the other speakers that August day in 1963, will ignore such vile encroachments and embrace the equality and opportunity that now lie before us.
Project 21 members Joe Hicks, Lisa Fritsch, Demetrius Minor and Stacy Swimp also have commented publicly on the March on Washington anniversary.
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for nearly two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).