Locals praise MLK's courage in marking March on Washington - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Locals praise MLK's courage in marking March on Washington

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Students attend local March on Washington Anniversary prayer service in Carrollton area. Students attend local March on Washington Anniversary prayer service in Carrollton area.

New Orleans, La. -- A thousand miles from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the young, the old, and many in between gathered in New Orleans to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech.

On August 28, 1963, it was a historic trek to the monument that resonates even now.

"We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt," Dr. King said to tens of thousands who had come from the segregationist South and other parts of the country to demand jobs and freedom: a massive gathering that riveted the nation and helped to turn pages in America's civil rights history.

"I have a dream this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed," King said.

And just before noon on Wednesday on the steps of Notre Dame Seminary in the Carrollton section of New Orleans, Dr. King's words and resolve were remembered.

"Martin Luther King not only had a dream but he had the courage and he had the guts to go to the streets and to make that dream public," said Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

"We would not honor Dr. King's legacy if we even allowed ourselves to believe that we're even halfway home," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

King dreamed of a society where a person's race would not be a hindrance. "I have a dream that my four little children one day will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character... I have a dream today," he said.

"He could read a phone book and you'd have an emotional acceptance," said Jerome Smith of New Orleans, who attended the March on Washington.

Smith was a "freedom rider" during the dark days of segregation. He weathered beatings while riding buses alongside whites in the south. He said Dr. King's words propelled their commitment to new heights.

"It gave us a sense, out of our determination, that we could keep those footsteps going," Smith said in an interview with FOX 8 News.

Dr. King's venerable civil rights organization, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, became a permanent organization after a meeting at New Zion Baptist Church in New Orleans in 1957. And in 1963, New Orleans-born gospel singer Mahalia Jackson actually prodded King to utter the now-iconic words during the March on Washington.

"She wanted him to preach and this is why when he was… [delivering] his speech and she was saying, 'Martin, Martin, the dream, Martin, the dream, Martin,'" Smith recalls.

Tuesday, Landrieu visited the spot of King's address and he shared reflections of that moment with students from St. Leo the Great Catholic School, who surrounded him as he sat on the steps of the seminary following the ceremony.

"It was just really incredible. On the way to the White House I pulled over and I walked up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and I stood in the very spot where Martin Luther King gave his address," said Landrieu.

Students said that speech from five decades ago challenges them, even now.

"It means to me that I have a dream to do anything I want to do," said Mark Williams, a student at St. Leo the Great.

"I think my obligation is to be a better student," stated fellow student Kayla Butler.

Aymond and Landrieu believe King's message has mileage today. "In this great historic city that we call home of New Orleans, we still have violence and murder and racism," stated the archbishop.

"John Lewis, a congressman who was actually beaten during those difficult times, said to me, 'I did not get beaten, I did not sacrifice and put my life at risk so that young people today could kill each other,'" said Landrieu.

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