D.C.

Diverse coalition hopes 'March On Washington' draws 250,000

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In less than two weeks, a crowd of hundreds of thousands will gather at the Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Organizers are busy mobilizing an interfaith coalition of groups to attend – groups with racially, theologically and politically diverse backgrounds. But organizers say they all have one common focus: continuing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a 21-year old, former D.C. Council member Frank Smith attended the 1963 march. “They said [the crowd] was 250 thousand. It looked like a million people to me,” Smith said.

Fifty years later, Smith is the chair of the local host committee, commemorating the march. Smith said, “I’ll be there [at the march] with my children and my grandchildren. And so you know life does change and it changes for the better.”

Coordinating with the National Action Network and ministers of all faiths across the country, organizers hope to draw a crowd equal to, if not larger than, 19-63: a quarter of a million people.

“It's being talked about in every pulpit across the country. We have people coming from as far as California,” said Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the board for the National Action Network.

In 2013, local civil rights activists say America is much closer to reaching King’s dream, but they also hope their event will address current issues: "stand your ground" laws, voter I.D. legislation and changes to the Voting Rights Act.

Gabriela Mossi from the D.C. Latino Caucus said, “Certainly the Voting Rights Act and other similar issues are just as important to the Latino community.

In addition to blacks, whites and latinos, the coalition organizing this modern march includes gays and lesbians – who call this "a homecoming."

They point to openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin – the chief organizer of the '63 march, but discouraged from speaking publicly about the movement. This year, Rustin will posthumously receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“It's deeply moving. It is a homecoming in the sense that there was a time that LGBT people were not welcome to the table although LGBT people were present at the genesis of the March on Washington,” said Rev. MacArthur H. Flournoy, the Human Rights Campaign’s Director for Faith Partnership and Mobilization.

The "March on Washington – Realize the Dream" rally will take place Saturday, August 24. There are also many events planned by different groups before and afterward.

In the morning, District leaders will hold a D.C. Statehood rally at the World War I Memorial. After gathering at the Lincoln Memorial, organizers say the crowd will march to the M.L.K. Memorial.

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