Community celebrates 50th anniversary of March on Washington

Iris Hunter Richmond County Daily Journal

August 29, 2013

In the early afternoon on Wednesday, members of the community gathered for a short program at Harrington Square in Rockingham in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington that was hosted by the M. L. King Celebration Committee.

The event consisted of several officials giving short speeches, including Steve Morris, Mayor of Rockingham, Fred McQueen, president of the Richmond County NAACP, and Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. The speeches given seemed to grab the attention of the small crowd, and earned applause from the assembled. Many who spoke talked about the progress of African-Americans and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality for everyone, and what it means.

Sheriff Clemmons mentioned during his speech that some of the struggles that were faced in the past are still being faced today. After the event, Clemmons told the Daily Journal that the March on Washington was to bring social awareness about the disparities of the world, and he believed that Wednesday’s program in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was an event for all people.

George E. Norris, superintendent of Richmond County Schools, was also one of the officials who made comments at the gathering. Norris said children will continue to know about the March on Washington, how to be good citizens and appreciate those of all backgrounds.

The program also consisted of three performances, including a song by the Rev. Dian Griffin-Jackson, pastor of Mt. Zion United Church of Christ, a song by Barbara Stroman, member of M. L. King Celebration Committee, and the “I Have A Dream” speech by Daryn Mason, a student at Rockingham Middle School.

“I am singing because our state, county and our country are regressing so far back that we have forgotten not only Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, but God’s dream for our world, and in the words of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes — it’s time for us to wake up,” said Jackson to the Daily Journal before the program began.

Angeline David, a member of the celebration committee, said that she was very proud of the young man, Mason, because of the way he recited King Jr.’s famous speech. She said that she felt as though he was really motivated to recite the speech.

At the end of the program, balloons were released, but not the 50 that were originally planned.

“This is a very historic occasion and I’m just very happy to be a part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington,” said Cleo Ferguson of Rockingham.

David said that she wished that more people would have come to the event, however, the event still had a good turnout.

To help those who came out stay cool in the hot and humid weather, bottles of water were handed out during the program.

J.C. Watkins, founder of the Celebration Committee, mentioned that he was thankful to see individuals attend the event, especially considering the weather.

“I want to thank all of those who sacrificed to come,” said Watkins.

Twenty-five years ago, the committee celebrated the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington at Richmond Community College in Hamlet, and it hosts a program every year in Dr. King’s honor on the Monday nearest to his birthday.

The M. L. King Celebration Committee was started by Watkins in the late 1980s.

— Staff Writer Iris Hunter can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at