By Alice Kenny
Fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the world with his famed “I Have a Dream” speech during the historic March on Washington, buses packed with Catholic Charities New York staff, clergy and neighborhood youth joined a pilgrimage of tens of thousands to rally for justice and equality at Washington’s National Mall.
“The day was long but it was worth it.” said Deacon Rodney Beckford Director of Catholic Charities, Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Center. Buses left New York City at 3 a.m. and arrived in D.C. at 8 a.m., in time to stake out a spot by the Reflecting Pond where the original marchers met on August 28, 1963. Pierre Toussaint scholars from the Archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry, named after the famed slave born in Haiti in 1766 who died a freeman, joined Catholic Charities Education Outreach program participants, priests and parishioners from the Harlem vicariate and Catholic Charities staff on the buses and in the rally, walking together to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.
“Catholic Charities is at the forefront of remembering and continuing Dr. King’s dream but the job is not done,” said Deacon Beckford, who, like his fellow bus riders, returned to New York 22 hours after they left. “I’m so proud of our chief executive, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, for leading us to not just talk the talk but to literally walk the walk.”
In addition to the D.C. pilgrimage, Catholic Charities is sponsoring a host of events to honor the march and further its goals. This week on JustLove, Catholic Charities’ weekly radio show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, The Catholic Channel 129, Msgr. Sullivan interviewed Dr. Marcia Cantarella, daughter of Whitney Young, the civil rights leader who helped organize the original march and later served as executive director of National Urban League.
Ms. Cantarella told Msgr. Sullivan about her father’s drive towards equality for all. He inspired her, she says, to dedicate her life towards make these goals reality by improving the accessibility of college education.
“There continues to be a significant gap between low income families, communities of color, and those with access to education,” Ms. Cantarella says, “so we still have significant disparity.”
Also on the show is William P. Jones, historian and author of “The March on Washington.” The original march, he says, changed civil rights and life for all Americans.
“It’s about the enforcement of what we truly believe.”
Looking for a way to honor Dr. King’s memory?