ONEONTA — Speakers honoring the civil rights movement recited historic speeches and coined contemporary phrases during activities Tuesday night commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, D.C.
A recitation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was a highlight and focal point of an interfaith service at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Oneonta on Tuesday night. Reginald Brunson’s presentation of the speech received a standing ovation from the diverse crowd of 140 listeners.
Ladavida Draughon, 21, an Oneonta Job Corps Academy student from Poughkeepsie, said that acknowledging the 50th anniversary is important and she appreciated organizers’ effort to plan the service.
“It was very inspirational and uplifting,” Draughon said.
The march on Aug. 28, 1963, will be recognized in Washington with a march and activities in Washington today. President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, will speak.
Locally today, the State University College at Oneonta has planned activities, which will include speeches and a panel presentation.
Local events have been organized by college, community and civil rights groups.
Many in the audience Tuesday night had marched along Main Street downtown before service.
“End Bullying,” “No More Oppression” and “End Bitterness and Hatred” were among the message on signs carried in the parade and still visible at the service.
The service program featured speakers from SUNY Oneonta, Hartwick College, local churches and the Oneonta Jobs Corps. They offered recitations of speeches by Obama, poetry by Maya Angelou and original reflections on injustice in the United States.
The gathering sang “Life Every Voice and Sing” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Edythe Ann Quinn, a professor at Hartwick, said in her course on the civil rights movement she not only teaches about past injustices and progress but also engages students in discussion about current challenges, including racial profiling, a lack of quality education for minorities and the shortfalls of minimum wage. Quinn called on listeners to strive further in the movement.
“We must still organize and march and demand that the promises be fulfilled,” she said. “We must make ‘some day’ today.”
Haywood Edwards, student human resources officer at Jobs Corps reviewed the academy’s history and spoke of how its mission helps fulfill the dream of the civil rights movement. He applauded the 26 Job Corps students who attended the march and service Tuesday night and asked audience members to hold hands while closing with King’s “free at last” comments.
Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller offered personal and political remarks about the 1963 march and the civil rights movement. He encouraged listeners to support his effort requesting a means to address a law that doesn’t allow the current operator of Job Corps — Education and Training Resources — to continue after its contract ends.
“We in Oneonta need to have them continue in the management and oversight of our Job Corps,” Miller said.