SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB)– In 1963, 29-year-old Ben Swan rounded up thousands of folks from Springfield and headed down to D.C. for the March on Washington. “When we got there, there were people coming from every direction. I was excited to see and learn that people had ridden to get there, walked to get there. Some people walked from Brooklyn, it took 13 days,” he recalled.
50 years later, he would return for the very same purpose.
He gathered with thousands who assembled on the national mall commemorating Martin Luther King Junior’s iconic “I Have a Dream” Speech.
Rep. Swan found that there are still many similarities between the past and the present. “If you listen to A. Phillip Randolph’s speech, it sounds like President Obama’s agenda because he’s asking for public works jobs. The march was for jobs and freedom. Now we’re dealing with the voting rights act, and so, some of the same questions are coming before us again,” Swan stated.
Once Reverend Talbert Swan got to D.C, he started snapping away, not even realizing his phone was capturing history in black and white. “It was a great experience to stand on the shoulders of those who came 50 years prior who struggled for civil rights,” shared Rev. Swan.
Rev. Swan added that the Voting Rights Act & George Zimmerman verdict were also focal points of the march. “In 1903 W.E.B. DuBois wrote a book, the souls of black folk. He stated that the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line. Here we stand more than a century later, and the problem of the 21st century is the same,”
Looking to the future, both Reverend and Rep. Ben Swan hope to see more progress. “I’m not dreaming. Reality is, that is like my country come into its own where every individual is respected,” Rep. Swan said.
Springfield’s Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services will be hosting events locally throughout the week in honor of the 50th anniversary.
August 26 (3:30 pm- 5 pm) Location: Youth Center & Charter School
Book Give Away - Youth who participate in the MLKFS Afterschool programs will receive a book compliments of Links to Libraries, Inc.
August 27 (6 pm – 8 pm) Location: MLKFS Youth Center – learning Center
A conversation with local civil rights leaders: “A look at where we’ve come from and the work that lies ahead”. Panelists to include Rep Ben Swan, Rev. Talbert Swan II, Frank Buntin.
August 28(6 pm – 8 pm) Location: MLKFS Youth Center – Learning Center
“The Political and Social Significance of Black Music throughout the Struggle for Equal Rights” : A panel discussion with some audience participation featuring local and national representatives from various musical genres, including:
- National Recording Artist Cleveland P Jones Berkley School of Music, Boston MA.
- Kevin Harewood of Edclectic Entertainment: Film maker, Music Agent of Brooklyn New York
- Kareem Kynard, local rap artist Community Activist
- Music by Kevin Spivey aka DJ KLS
- Moderated by Daryll Moss and Victoria Rowe of WTCC Radio‘s “The Outsider Show”
August 29 (6 pm – 8 pm) Location: MLKFS Youth Center – Learning Center
Showing of the PBS documentary on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, DC featuring long time Civil Rights Activist and Congressman John Lewis
August 30 ( 9 am – 4 pm) Location: MLKFS Campus
United Way Day of Caring – Volunteers from local businesses and the community will converge on MLKFS agency to provide support for the upgrading of the grounds and interior projects
August 31 (begins 11 am) Location: Rebecca M Johnson School, State St. to Blunt Park. The Martin Luther King Family Services will participate in the 25th Anniversary Celebration Parade, featuring the “Kings Kids” bucket drummers and representatives from the agencies staff and leaders. Celebrating community pride!