50th Anniversary March on Washington Draws Columbia Union Members
Story by Taashi Rowe
Members from all across the Columbia Union Conference are among the thousands of people converging on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Their participation started on Saturday at a joint rally for jobs and freedom and commemoration of the original march.
Before Sabbath School and after church, several members of Allegheny East Conference’s Dupont Park church in D.C., distributed some 5,000 pieces of literature, including copies of The Great Hope. Dupont member Marjorie Taylor, who heard portions of King’s speech while she was a student at Oakwood University (Ala.), said while Saturday’s occasion was significant, she saw it as an opportunity for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “We greeted people as they got off buses and welcomed them to Washington, D.C., in the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. People were so receptive,” she said. “For me it wasn’t so much about what the march represented, it was about being down there with people doing whatever we could for them. I believe that any time there is a huge crowd, the Adventist Church should be there showing people how much we care about them and distributing truth-filled literature.”
Today Anissa Peréz-Perla, a member of Potomac Conference’s Arise church in Temple Hill, Md., was present on the National Mall simply to be a part of history. The program was not even halfway through before she was moved by Christian singer Natalie Grant’s rendition of “I Love the Lord.”
Peréz-Perla said, “I felt tears welling up in my eyes. It was moving to be hearing this beautifully sung testimony shared with the throngs of people here in the most powerful city in the world. I instantly prayed for everyone whose ears could hear this song, so that they may know about Christ’s love and His all-inclusive nature.”
Kathleen Flower, a member of Chesapeake Conference’s New Hope church in Fulton, Md., also attended the Wednesday march and said of her involvement, “I felt privileged to be standing so close to the same individuals who marched 50 years ago for freedom. The vibe in the air was unmistakably filled with excitement and respect. I could almost feel how powerful it was 50 years ago, and I was only standing on the sidewalk. It was one of those cherished memories.”
Stefan Burton Schnüll, a pastor in the New Jersey Conference, said even the rain couldn’t dampen his experience, which he said was “electrifying.”
David Franklin, assistant pastor at Allegheny East's Berea Temple in Baltimore, said he felt compelled to go down to the National Mall today because "too many have done too much for me to ignore this moment in our nation's history. ... I want to be reminded of my responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation and this celebration was a great way to do that."
Has King’s Dream Been Realized?
While 50 years ago the mostly African-American crowd of some 200,000 people marched for equal treatment and rights in all segments of society, this year many reflected on how much has changed.
Ben Carson, MD, the famed neurosurgeon and member of Chesapeake’s Spencerville church in Silver Spring, Md., wrote a piece in the Washington Times in which he lamented an increase in black-on-black violence and a decline in family values. Carson, who was 11 years old when King delivered his famous speech, wrote, “If King could be resurrected and see what was going on in America today, I suspect he would be extraordinarily pleased by many of the things he observed and disappointed by others.”
Although she didn’t attend the march today, Anna Buchannan, a Dupont Park member, attended the first march when she was 27 years old and shared her thoughts in an NAD NewsPoints profile: “We have made some inroads but we are not at the point where we can say that racial inequality is over.” She still hopes to see increased opportunities for minorities in the church and in the world.
V. Michelle Bernard contributed to this article.