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A Dream Remembered: Students Cover The Anniversary Of A Civil Rights Milestone

Written by Candace King

Students interview a participant at the march

On August 28, 1963, people from different states, races, and creeds came together for the March on Washington, held at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Fifty years later, it was humbling to be on that same mall, among a diverse crowd of people—some of whom were returning to the scene of that historic event.

I was one of five Ithaca College students from the Roy H. Park School of Communications selected to participate in the coverage of the anniversary march for PBS’s NewsHour Online. We were to find and interview people in the crowd, live tweet the event, and edit our own pieces for the “Student Voices” section of the PBS NewsHour website.

As excited as I was to cover the event, I was a little apprehensive about the weather. It was a humid day in D.C., and a storm was brewing. As we drove into the city, our professor, James Rada, gave us the game plan. We went over the logistics of the day and who the targets of our coverage would be. We would be canvassing the crowd for former marchers and young people. I was excited by how much editorial control we would have over our coverage of the event.

When we arrived at the National Mall, it had already started to drizzle. Our first objective was to get inside the mall area so that we could set up. It was a challenging task because we had so much equipment: huge golf umbrellas, medium-sized camera bags, and bulky shoulder mounts. But getting through security turned out to be easier than I thought it would be.

Eventually we were through the gate and ready to go. People were slowly trickling in. We turned our cameras on and began rolling. I perused the crowd, looking for someone to talk with me. It wasn’t easy at first. There were so many people who all seemed eager to share their stories, but the problem was choosing the right ones.

Eventually I met one young man who was standing at a barricade with his aunt. He reminded me of my brother. He had a shy smile and was timid at first, but after I introduced myself, he began to open up. His name was George Manling, and he was 16.

Manling said he felt obligated to be there for the anniversary, that he felt a sense of responsibility. I was touched by his sense of purpose and agency, which mirrored the sentiments of the people who were there 50 years ago.
Mia O’Brien ’15 had the opportunity to interview a woman whose father had helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with Martin Luther King Jr.

“We discovered the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth’s daughter in the crowd,” O’Brien said. “I’ll never forget kneeling next to her as she told me how her sister used to watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s kids and how she used to hang out at the King’s family house.”

Max Gordon ’14 said he wished he could have shared the experience with his late grandfather, a Southern Baptist preacher who was involved in the civil rights movement.

“I was in the same spot where people stood to help families step out of second-class citizenship,” he said.

Later in the day, we made our way to the press box to prepare for the speeches. I had the opportunity to hear Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice, speak. When Bernice spoke about her father’s dream, it was a very surreal moment for me. Even though she was only five when her father died, barely old enough to fully know him, she spoke with the same fire and purpose as her father. Hearing her speak made King come alive for me, and having that energy in the atmosphere was inspiring.

I found myself asking the question Dr. King posed, “Where do we go from here: chaos or community?” Fifty years from now, I hope we will have answered this question with community.



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