LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was celebrated throughout Los Angeles Wednesday as civil right activists gathered to remember how Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech altered the course of America.
Brenda Bolton was in her 20s when she got on a bus and made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see Dr. King deliver the remarks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
She commemorated the 50th anniversary of the event with students and others at El Camino Community College, and told KNX1070’s Claudia Peschiutta about the transformative experience of watching the civil rights leader inspire the nation to affect change.
“Tears came down, just tears came down. When he said, ‘Free at last, free at last’… you shouted like you were shouting in church,” she recalled
Bolton said she talks to her grandchildren about the civil rights movement but they don’t really appreciate the struggle she and others went through.
“They cannot imagine going into a store and not being able to try on clothes,” she explained.
“They can’t imagine not being able to go to any movie that they want to see… To them it’s like a movie. But with us [my generation], even now whenever I hear, ‘We shall overcome,’ tears just flow,” she said.
Congresswoman Janice Hahn was among the speakers at the commemoration ceremony.
“As big as that moment was in the lives of all Americans at that time, nothing looms larger in our history than Dr. King’s speech and those four powerful words, ‘I have a dream,'” she told the crowd. “Those words convicted our country with truth and shifted America’s course.”
The politician recalled how her late father, former L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, was the only elected official who agreed to meet with Dr. King when he came to the city in 1961.
“Dr. King spent the time with my dad telling my dad of his hopes for America,” she said.
Local civil rights advocates also remembered Dr. King’s speech with a special ceremony Wednesday at City Hall.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California voiced their commitment to fight for equal opportunities and allowed those struggling to share their stories.
The advocates also urged labor and community leaders to stand up against all forms of discrimination.
“We want to remember the March on Washington to call on the moral conscience of the country but also to call on the moral conscience of Angelenos across this land and the folks who make decisions about our people everyday,” a spokesperson said.