MANHATTAN (PIX11) – Fifty years ago Wednesday a Reverend from Atlanta went to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and welcomed the sea of humanity by saying, “I’m happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
It’s difficult to forget the first time many of us heard those poignant words.
Delivered by a legend-in-the-making who defiantly marched to Washington D.C. to awaken a nation.
To tell the nation, it was time to change.
So on Wednesday afternoon, we asked New Yorkers to take a moment and read for us.
What many read, was some of the text from Dr. King’s speech. They then reflected on how it has played out today.
Galite Pearlman came to U.S. from Israel at the age of twelve. She eventually became a citizen in 2000. Pearlman believes that at a time when we have a black President in his second term, a married lesbian performing well in the race for Mayor of New York City, and more racial integration than ever before, the nation can still do better, “I still think the United States has the opportunity to continue and evolve, where people don’t judge by the color of their skin or age or religion or sexual orientation.”
Sha Sha Davis wasn’t as optimistic with his viewpoint, “There is still racism going on, but it’s hidden. It’s not upfront no more.”
Adasha Sanchez agrees, but adds that it is still very much front and center, “Look at Trayvon Martin, nothing has changed, nothing. Everything is still the same, I mean racism still exists.”
There is no doubt it still does.
This said, imagine for moment if Dr. King never made it to Washington D.C. on that day.
It’s almost happened, and the cause was a book signing in Harlem.
On September 20, 1958, Dr. King had a book signing at 230 West 125th Street. According to reports a woman came up to him and stabbed him with a letter opener. Dr. King nearly died. When doctors told him that he had miraculously averted death, Dr. King expressed his sympathy for the woman, saying that she was disturbed and not responsible for her actions.
A few years later, Dr. King made it to the Lincoln Memorial and changed the course of a nation.
At 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday at St. John’s the Divine, they rang bells in his honor.
A few blocks away little Destiny Butler recited the words that a nation will never forget.
“Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.”