Making the ‘Dream’ a Reality: Coverage from Catholic News Service

People gather for a special Mass marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Aug. 25 at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Washington.


March on Washington anniversary draws crowds to make ‘Dream’ reality

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- By the thousands they came to the National Mall in Washington, people of all ages, races and religions, to stand in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial Aug. 24, just as hundreds of thousands had done 50 years earlier. In 1963, those at the March on Washington were galvanized by the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose “I Have a Dream” speech electrified a nation and pushed it, sometimes against its will, to guarantee civil rights to all Americans. In 2013, participants in the commemoration took note of how far America has come in the past half-century, but also acknowledged how far America has to go. While the original march had as its tagline “For Jobs and Freedom,” the Aug. 24 anniversary event’s informal tagline was “jobs, justice and freedom.” The program in 1963 had 15 speakers, including three prayers—one of them an invocation by then-Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle of Washington. In contrast, the Aug. 24 event had more than four hours of speakers, most of them limited to two minutes before the music swelled and the microphone was cut. That allowed for a broader palette of issues to be raised, including immigration reform, women’s rights, gay rights and “Trayvon’s Law,” an effort to reverse “stand your ground” laws in states. The effort is named for Trayvon Martin, the teen whose killer was acquitted in July by a jury instructed on Florida’s stand-your-ground law. “Both Martins—King and Trayvon—were unjustly profiled,” said Michael Eric Dyson, a sociology professor at Georgetown University and one of the march’s first speakers.

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Black Catholics felt the need to be at March on Washington anniversary

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The presence of Catholic priests and religious was unmistakable at the first March on Washington in 1963; their clerical collars and full habits with wimples stood out even among the black-and-white images of the day. Clergy and religious weren’t as visible at the first of two major anniversary events in 2013, but African American Catholics were in attendance, just as they were a half-century earlier. There was, they said in interviews with Catholic News Service, no place else they could imagine being on Aug. 24. “I never thought about not being here,” declared Donna Pasteur, a member of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, as she sat with a delegation from her parish on the south side of the Reflecting Pool in shade on a sunny summer day and close to a speaker tower. Pasteur said she had also been at 25th- and 40th-anniversary commemorations of the March on Washington. The issues that brought about the first march, in her view, stubbornly remain today. “I see the inequality in jobs and justice,” Pasteur told Catholic News Service. “We just have too many people out of work. We don’t have that many good jobs.” Even so, the situation is improving compared to two generations ago, she said. “You pray in different ways. You pray with your own presence, too for jobs and justice,” repeating the theme of the 1963 march. Pasteur’s friend—and St. Augustine School classmate—Shirley Satterwhite, started making plans to come to the Aug. 24 march once she returned from a funeral in South Carolina. “I sum it up as justice,” Satterwhite said. “I see progress in the schools, the public schools. I see some changes in the police force,” she added, with Pasteur interjecting, “Some breakthroughs.” Then Satterwhite continued, “Better control of crime.” “We’ve got a president in the White House who gives voice to all Americans. It gives us a chance to show solidarity,” Pasteur continued. Satterwhite lauded President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, for his efforts at ending war. “He’s bringing some veterans home,” she said, “and taken better care of the veterans.”

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Catholics called to step up in ongoing fight against racism

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Making realities of the dreams that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of in his 1963 address at the March on Washington will mean Catholics must stop being complacent about militarism, racism and poverty, summed up Patricia Chappell, S.N.D.deN., executive director of Pax Christi USA. In a “Catholic conversation” on the church, race and the march Aug. 25 amid events marking the 50th anniversary of the march, Sister Patricia, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, drew applause and cries of support from the audience of nearly 200 people at the mostly full sanctuary of historically African-American Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. She called for the church to “go back to Catholic social teaching” because it clearly lays out responsibility to speak up in support of education, housing and job programs that would help the poor. Sister Patricia said the institutional church has done too little recently to speak up about the systems that allow racism to continue to exist. “We need to make a connection between militarism, racism and poverty,” she said. “As Catholics we need to either put up or shut up.” She was joined on the panel by Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a parishioner at Holy Redeemer, who touched on the intersection of issues stemming from his previous position as head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice and his current position. Perez observed that while there is an African-American president, an African-American attorney general and women and minorities on the Supreme Court, too many people, especially minorities and immigrants, live in the shadows of society. He said it should be a “moral and economic imperative” for Americans and people of faith to support issues like universal health care access, comprehensive immigration reform, restoring the Voting Rights Act and raising the minimum wage.


(Photo credit: Catholic News Service/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

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