Area residents participate in MLK march

By KATIE ATKINS

OBSERVER staff writer

The events that took place in Washington 50 years ago hold different meanings for many different people. A group of locals were in the nation’s capital on Saturday Aug. 24 to take part in a commemorative march and celebrate the progress of the civil rights movement and what it means today.

Judi Lutz-Woods, Cath Kestler and Marcia Johnson of Fredonia traveled to Washington to witness the rally which was very similar to what took place a half-century ago.

The ladies were also joined by Johnson’s cousin Phoebe Rain Casper and Robenson Jean-Louis of Williamsville.

Lutz-Woods said, “We’re still marching for jobs and freedom.”

The speaker she admired most was John Lewis who was originally the youngest speaker during the march in 1963, was arrested and jailed 40 times as a civil rights leader and is the only surviving speaker from the original march.

Lutz-Woods said she took her grandchildren to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., last year. It is built around the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

“With that as a history, I really wanted to go to this march,” Lutz-Woods said.

She explained how she attended an anti-war march in Washington in the1960s where there were nearly 300,000 people.

“In my opinion, this event mirrored that. As far as you could see, there were people,” she said.

Also, at one point everyone in attendance held hands and prayed together for peace, justice and equality for all.

“Everyone got along. People were helping each other, giving each other food,” Lutz-Woods said, adding, “It was fabulous. I came back energized. We were all like one, coming together as one people with one message. It was such an honor to be part of history. That’s how I felt.”

Ghandi’s grandson was in attendance along with many other prominent names such as Attorney General Eric Holder.

Martin Luther King III was at the rally and said, “This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration, nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration.”

He also said, “The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more.”

Kestler said, “I’ve always fought for racial equality,” and spoke of growing up in an all black neighborhood.

“We didn’t see the color of skin. We were all one big happy family. That’s how I was brought up. You treat each other as you would want to be treated yourself.”

Kestler said there were “people of all walks of faith” at the demonstration.

“It was just so peaceful,” she said. “It was joyful to see we could all come together and get things accomplished.”

Kestler spoke of the outcome of the Trayvon Martin verdict. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, attended the rally, but didn’t speak for long.

“She was so classy,” Lutz-Woods said.

Fulton met with Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents in Miami this week to talk about a criminal civil-rights investigation into the fatal shooting of her son. Fulton spoke along with Al Sharpton whose speech was about stopping black on black violence and respecting elderly people and women.

Johnson said, “It was a wonderful experience to see so many people who appreciate what the people who came before us have done for civil rights. It was a very positive, moving experience.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi; Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of Medgar Evers; Mayor of Newark, N.J., Corry Booker; and economist Jeffrey Sachs also spoke at the commemorative march.