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50th anniversary of the March on Washington

Event Details:

Saturday, August 26, 2017
7:00pm - 8:00pm PDT


King Plaza, Palo Alto City Hall

On Monday, August 26, the City of Palo Alto and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute at Stanford University collaborated to host a multimedia celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Palo Alto Mayor Greg Schaff began the event by reading a proclamation passed by the City Council.The unique commemoration featured a speech by civil-rights activist Dolores Huerta, a heroic figure of the farm workers movement and a founder, along with Caesar Chavez, of National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers Union. In 2012 Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

After special tributes to Joan Baez and  Clarence Jones, who were not able to attend, Bay Area jazz singer Kim Nalley took over the stage for a program of songs that were also performed at the 1963 march. Nalley receiving strong vocal support from Bryan Dyer along with “Passages in Palestine” singers September Penn and Aleta Hays. The singers were backed by musicians Tammy HallMarcus Shelby, and Kent Bryson. For the finale, the Santa Clara University Gospel Choir also lent their voices to stirring versions of “Free at Last” and “This Little Light of Mine.”

The evening also features a spirited reading by Tyee Tilghman of the militant speech that SNCC activist  (and now Congressman) John Lewis was forced to tone down for delivery at the 1963 march, and Aldo Billingslea ably performed King’s reflections on his “I Have a Dream” oration. Even after the wonderful performances, however, the highlight of the evening was the replaying of a video recording of King’s entire speech.

Palo Alto Weekly publicized and covered the commemoration (posting a video on YouTube). Palo Alto Online estimated that “thousands to people linked arms” to sing “We Shall Overcome” and participate in the event, which “brought together people of all races.” Mercury News Media Center and India Education also covered one of Palo Alto’s largest public commemorations. 

During Huerta’s speech she urged the crowd to continue King’s work and noted that “when we look around and reflect, we do see that we have so much work still to do if we are going to make Dr. King’s legacy a live legacy.” Urging the audience to continue King’s work, she said, “Justice is the public face of love. Injustice is the public face of hate.” In remarks at the event and at the preceding dinner at the Garden Court Hotel, Dr. Clayborne Carson mentioned that long-standing ties between local residents and movements inspired by King’s ideas. King spoke on the Stanford campus on at least two occasions, and King Center founder Coretta Scott King later chose Dr. Carson to edit her late husband’s papers. The King Institute that Dr. Carson founded on the Stanford campus is the world’s most extensive source of information about King.

Dr. Clayborne Carson's remarks:

I believe that Silicon Valley can and should play a major role in passing on King’s ideas to future generations by disseminating the visionary ideas associated with King. We can feel justifying pride in being the site of history’s greatest revolution in communications technology, but we would be even more proud to use our unique technological resources to disseminate the concepts of nonviolence associated with one of history’s greatest freedom struggles.

At least for one magical evening, the bells of freedom rang in Silicon Valley. As a resident of the Palo Alto for more than three decades, I’ve never been more proud of the place I call home than I was when local residents came together to celebrate King’s Dream and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Event Sponsor: 
City of Palo Alto and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute at Stanford University

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