In Northwest Philadelphia, an evening of song, poetry and remembrance marked the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered during the March on Washington. The event was hosted by Mt. Airy’s Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration.
The march, together with King’s speech, is considered to be pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. Lauded as one of the top American speeches of the 20th century, King was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize the following year.
Speaking to the church’s long history of supporting racial and economic justice, Rev. Dr. Kathryn Ellis said she was pleased when other members of the church’s leadership organized the event in mid-July while she was on vacation.
“We celebrate what has changed and renew our efforts to make Dr. King’s dream a reality,” Rev. Ellis said.
Bruce Pollack-Johnson led participants in song as he strummed on his guitar tunes which were performed during the historic march. In between numbers, poems and some of King’s other written works were read aloud.
Several members of Heeding God’s Call, an interfaith activist organization seeking to prevent gun violence, were in attendance and read poems addressing the nationwide problem. King was himself a victim of gun violence when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if King were here today, he would be in the streets and one of the issues he would be taking up is this issue,” said Susan Windle, one of the group’s members.
The church’s assistant moderator, Cynthia Bradley, helped to put together the event. She was only 15 years old when the march took place and her strict grandmother forbade her to go. Bradley said that over the years she has often wished she had found a way to take part.
“This is another chance to make something happen right here in our church,” she said.