NIU remembers march

By Jen Bland

Thirty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led thousands of people in the march on Washington D.C. to demand equality for people of all colors.

Saturday, Aug. 28 marked the 30th anniversary of this historic event. In recognition of the anniversary, the march was recreated.

The main demands of this march were for jobs, justice and peace. At the march, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also passed the “torch of leadership” onto the next generation of civil rights leaders.

The anniversary of this civil rights march stirred up some powerful feelings around campus.

Tracy Fletcher, sophomore, major undecided, said she is proud of the march, but it doesn’t seem like enough has changed.

“I think the march was nice because it was trying to give minorities equal rights,” said freshman Krystal Gay, a nursing major.

Marcus Lee, president of the NAACP at NIU, said the march “depicted a scenario that plays out today” but addresses different topics. Lee believes the main topics today are equality and drug warfare.

“The march showed how minorities can get along and get things done,” he added. “This year’s march shows the new generation of leaders and how they should take responsibility for helping minorities.”

Tendaji Ganges, director of Educational Services and Programs, described the march as an “attempt by a lot of people to come together and reassert and reaffirm the need for equal rights for all.

“It reaffirmed a need to improve society,” Ganges added. “It was a positive step.”

“It was one of the most diverse and peaceful demonstrations in the civil rights movement that was effective,” said April McLaughlin, vice-president of the Black Student Union. “It was effective because it got the nation’s attention.”

The NIU minority community also seems to agree that although some things have changed, much more can be done.

Gay said, “There was progress once upon a time, but now it’s turning back to the way things were.”

Lee said although civil rights bills have been passed, jobs are still not given out evenly.

“In America, equality can’t be reached until people in power realize people of color have voices and are vital citizens of the United States,” he said.

Lee said many of the steps taken have been to pacify minorities. “When you give someone something to pacify them and not solve the problem, it doesn’t help.”

“I am of a mind that I’m not at all satisfied with the progress that’s been made,” Ganges said. He believes the elements that lead to the original march are still present.

“There has been progress made as far as integrating schools and such, but race relations have a long way to go,” McLaughlin said.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech still evokes emotions from everyone who has heard it.

“Coming from a bi-racial marriage, it makes me proud to be a bi-racial child,” said Fletcher. “I feel it changed peoples’ attitudes toward other races.”

“It tried to ensure equal rights for mine and future generations,” Gay added.

Lee describes the speech as a blueprint for a better society. “It has not been fulfilled today, and it’s up to us as individuals to try to fulfill it.”

“We’re still reaching for that dream today,” he added. “There’s so much more that should be done.”

Ganges says the speech was “one of the most powerful made by an individual.” He said it was significant to every living individual.

“It was very positive, yet honest in its appraisal of what’s wrong with the greater society,” he said.

McLaughlin believes the one phrase that summarized the purpose of the speech was when Dr. King said people should not be judged on the color of their skin, but on the context of their character.

“There is great diversity among the black community,” she said. “There should not be tension between other races or among our own.”