Bay Area residents reflect on March on Washington

August 26, 2013 6:32:36 PM PDT
More than 200,000 people attended the March On Washington 50 years ago this Wednesday and we are finding many in the Bay Area who want to tell their stories about a day that they say changed their lives and their commitment to civil rights.

"That's where we ended up sitting," said Judy Collier.

Collier remembers it as if it were yesterday. The pictures she took at the 1963 March On Washington help bring it all back.

"It was amazing to see so many people, black people and white people all together, all dressed up as if going to church," said Collier.

At the time Collier was a 22-year-old Chicago college student. Now she is 72 and a retired school teacher. Collier still gets emotional when she reminisces about that day and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech.

"It still makes me shiver and I remember afterwards gathering and singing, 'We Shall Overcome.' We didn't realize at the time how important it was," said Collier.

David Vlahov was just 11 years old when he joined that march.

"I'd been part of a synagogue where the rabbi had been very socially active, had been one of the Freedom Riders himself," said Vlahov.

Vlahov still has the banner he carried that day.

"People just welcomed each other. 'You can't find your group? Come along,'" said Vlahov.

That banner now hangs on the wall at UCSF where he is dean of the nursing department. On Saturday, the 61-year-old professor went back to Washington for the commemoration.

"What I thought was very important was the looking forward and not just looking back. And that, I think, was very important because so many people in the audience were a younger generation," said Vlahov.

That younger generation is who Collier tries to reach. She takes her pictures and buttons and books into Bay Area schools. Both she and Vlahov agree there is still work to be done.

"If we come together, anything is possible," said Collier.

"The movement as we see it, is not finished. It really has to continue," said Vlahov.

Both see President Barack Obama's election, and reelection, as a sign there has been some progress.

The National Education Association is asking teachers nationwide who were at the march to post memories online here.


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