When you talk with people who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Detroit's "Walk to Freedom" 50 years ago, they will speak about the spirit of pride, unity, purpose and hope that permeated the crowd of 125,000 as they made their way through Detroit.
The march, held June 23, 1963, was the largest-ever civil rights demonstration in the country at that time. It was also the first time King delivered a version of his now-famous I Have A Dream speech.
On Saturday, the Detroit branch of the NAACP, the United Auto Workers and numerous other religious, civic and community organizations will commemorate the march.
"While we celebrate the dream and the legacy of Dr. King, we are compelled to work to make that dream a reality," said Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP branch. "This is more than a march; it's a call to action."
Saturday's demonstration lands at the apex of a critical moment in Detroit history. As the city teeters on the verge of bankruptcy and uncertainty, reigniting a spirit of unity, pride and purpose is crucial, march organizers have said.
"It's not solely because there's an emergency manager in Detroit; it's not solely because this state has become a right-to-work state or because we are having financial issues all over the state of Michigan, including in Detroit. It's because of all of those issues, but it's mostly because the work of Dr. King is not finished," Anthony said. "We've made a great deal of strides since Dr. King walked down Woodward. But we cannot afford to rest. We're doing this to remind everyone that there is still work to be done."
The Detroit march preceeded the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" in August 1963. A national march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the demonstration will be held Aug. 28 in Washington.