Gainesville resident awestruck by D.C. commemoration


Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

The rain didn't stop Gainesville resident Pat McCollough from marching in the nation's capital on Wednesday for the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, and it didn't seem to stop anyone else either.

So many people showed up for the Wednesday morning march armed with ponchos and umbrellas that McCollough, a member of the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee, wondered whether they had enough marshals to keep the event organized and under control.

It rained off and on all day long, but participants in the march sang and chanted as they walked and stuck it out to hear President Barack Obama speak.

"It was just such an awesome, awesome march, and it was motivating," she said.

Several people who participated in the original event, which culminated on Aug. 28, 1963, with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famed "I Have a Dream" speech, came to march on Wednesday and were paired up with college students who stayed with them throughout the 1.6-mile route.

"It was like passing the torch basically," she said. "It was about what happened in the past but (also) looking forward to the future."

During the march, McCollough said the marshals formed a human chain in front of the March on Washington alumni as a protective buffer from the people clamoring for photographs and the chance to talk to them.

"It was every major network plus smaller media networks and individual people, so we had to have a chain of marshals marching in the front of the very front line and actually lock hands together," she said.

McCollough said she was excited by the way the president framed the anniversary of the March on Washington, bridging the gap between that poignant piece of America's past and where the country needs to go from here.

Now that she is heading back home after a week in Washington, D.C., participating in various anniversary events, McCollough said she hopes to sustain the momentum evident in Wednesday's festivities. There is a need for change both nationally and locally. Back home in Gainesville, she said she would like to see leaders come together and make this community a place where residents can talk openly and honestly about difficult topics such as racial profiling.

"I really want change in our community, and I would like to see unity," she said, noting this is not the time to be silent on the equality issues facing the country.

"I think it's just time to make some noise," she said.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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