CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A large crowd gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
It was 1963 when King led the march on Washington for jobs and freedom and gave his historical speech from the Lincoln Memorial. Charleston resident Frances Shearin remembers it well.
“We cried, we smiled and there was an overwhelming feeling of tranquility ,” she said. “That tranquility came from the fact that there was peacefulness , that there was unity.”
Many gathered in the Lower Rotundra of the state Capitol to take a moment to remember King’s dream of race equality and realize just how far the country had come since that day. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said they have come along way.
“We look at our school children and they’re all going to school together. You look at the Legislature and in Congress as far as people in government and many of our major cities have African Americans as mayors,” said Tomblin. “So I think that’s something 50 years ago was probably unheard of.”
But he also admits that they have more work to do.
“We need to strive hard to ensure that equality is still all over America,” said Tomblin.
For just over an hour, the halls of the Capitol rang with singing, music and even the small voices of children sharing there own dreams.
Shearin was touched by what the kids said and moved by the speeches given during the ceremony, but she only wonders what will happen after the anniversary.
“Do we go back into our boxes, do we go back to our homes and it’s still business as usual. Does government go back into their little cubicles and it’s still business as usual,” she said. “Are the laws going to change to effectively make lives better for the people who need their lives changed. Is it going to change or is it going to remain the same.”
Shearin said progress has been made, but a lot more work still needs to be done.
To cap off the ceremony, a bell ringing took place outside the Capitol.
Tomblin said that even today, Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision still rings true.
Wednesdays ceremony was sponsored by West Virginia State University and the state minority affairs office.