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Remembering the Past as We Look Toward the Future: The March on Washington

Credit: The Guardian

As we prepare for the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, citizens of Springfield reflect on the progress we’ve made. KSMU’s Julie Greene reports.  

“The police would just treat blacks with very little respect, disregard for rights, or any kind of dignity, and this was a customary thing. With all the lynching and stuff, sometimes the police would be protecting the lynch mob, helping the lynch mob to hang the blacks.”

That’s how things used to be, according to Missouri State University professor Dr. Johnny Washington, who teaches an African American Studies class at the school.

Although we’ve pushed forward as a nation since Dr. King’s day when hate crimes and police brutality ran rampant in the South, our mission is not yet complete, says Denny Whayne, NAACP member and former Springfield councilman. He describes why it’s so important for people of difference races and ethnicities to coexist equally.  

“We’re tryin’ to form a piano, with the black keys and the white keys, ebony and ivory. See without the black keys or the white keys, you have no melody, you have no harmony. By the blacks and the whites comin’ together, they’re formin’ not a baby grand but a regular grand, and until we get to formin’ a piano, it’s not gonna work.”

Both Dr. Washington and Whayne believe the best way to promote equality is through education. Dr. Washington states that along with education, it’s also necessary to:

“Teach young children, black, white, and all races to recognize each other and to respect each other and to appreciate the diversity, so equality has to tie in with recognition of diversity.”

Springfield will continue the fight for equal rights and celebrate the legacy of the March on Washington by hosting The Unity March to Park Central Square.

 “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'"

Dr. King’s entire speech will be featured as part of the Springfield Unity March, beginning Wednesday night at 7:30. For more information, visit www.mlksgf.com