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A Message to Keni Washington, Managing Director, Earth-Solar Technologies Corporation, Indianapolis, IN. Stanford '69 On Aug 29, 2013, at 12:36 AM, "Charles E. Countee" <cecountee@rcn.com> CEC Associates LLC, Washington, DC. Stanford '67 wrote: Keni: Thanks so very much for your message. On this day fifty years ago, I was sleeping soundly in my parents' house in Washington DC. A loud knock came to the door at about 5:00 am, from a prep school mate, Hilton Clark [son of Psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark], along with two carloads of his friends from New York City. They arrived in DC at 4:00 am, and were afraid to disturb my parents so early in the morning, but they couldn't sleep all crammed up in the cars. They knocked on the door, my father awoke, and welcomed the crew into the house, and sent them down to the basement to sleep until a decent hour. Everybody went back to bed and after a few more hours of shut-eye, began to stir. My parents then arose and fixed a huge breakfast of pancakes and sausage for everybody. Although I hadn't planned to attend the March, I joined the unanticipated crew in getting from our house down to the Mall. We must have walked 3-4 miles late that morning in the increasingly hot, humid, thick DC summer air, along with the hundred thousands of people crowding into a rather packed area in front of the Monument. It was the first demonstration I had participated in. We moved down towards the Monument, oh so slowly. The crowd was so friendly, so joyous, so jubilant, and happy. It was almost as if out to a holiday festival, which it was. Thousands of people crowded together. We just blended in without any thought as to where we were going, just following the line, jubilant, yet reserved and happy. We started hearing all the music as the thousands, the mass of thousands, of folks from every stripe and hue, every race and religion, every type of clothing, walked closer around the Reflecting Pool, in order to get as close to the speaker platform as possible. Of course, with such a crowd, one couldn't determine where you were going, you were just following the folks in front of you. We found our way to the end of the Reflecting Pool, and established a reasonable viewpoint to the podium. I don't remember many police, mostly National Park Service Rangers, which no one really dealt with. The crowd was gently herded towards the podium. The music was quite raucous and loud. Then the speeches came one after the other. So many people were singing, clapping and yelling, with many signs on every shirt and placard. A full range of interests and concerns being expressed. I'm afraid I don't remember many of the speeches but one. The crowd was never really quiet, just perhaps hushed somewhat. There were many speakers for an hour and a half or so, or more. But the focus that we anticipated came when Dr. King began to speak. At first, he was slow and deliberate, and the crowd grew to be silent as he went on. So distinct was his voice and his cadence so measured, that he drew you in to each thought, to each paragraph of the speech, almost lifting you along as he went. The more mesmerizing Dr. King was, the more focused he became, until people started to call out and shout out in response. It was as if we were being carried along the hills and valleys of his physical, allegorical and oratorical journey, painting us through his words to recognize the point of necessary action. "We must long remember here……., ………………………………." The crowd was loud and so much with him, and so calling out and responding to each phrase, that even with the speakers, you couldn't really follow, but just felt the words come tumbling down and reverberating over your ears. And it seemed, even still now, that Dr. King's speech was not long, but the cadence grew and grew, and brought everyone toward the conclusion, "Free at last, free at last, Lord God Almighty, ………" And then there was this tumultuous uproar of hundreds of thousands of people at the same time, that drowned out all of the last few words. The crowd yelled and screamed, clapped and shouted. It seemed like millions of people all around us went in every direction as they departed from the scene. I frankly don't remember much after that. I don't know how we got home. I frankly don't remember any other aspects of the speech, other than the people who went swimming in the shallow Reflecting Pool, and there were many. I think the National Park Service was not as concerned about them at the time. I don't remember how I got home from that event. I don't even remember Hilton and his friends coming back to the house, and getting their car from the front of our street. Though that is what they must have done. There was no parking downtown, so we must have gotten back safely. But the experience has never, ever left me. "I will long remember here, …." This past weekend, my family's church, All Soul's Unitarian, on 16th Street, NW, held a dinner, sing fest, and sign-making session in the Great Hall. We had several group singing sessions, with the words printed and distributed to all tables. They provided some dance routines, and some call-and- response ventures, some beautiful soloists. The program was a lot of fun, but we had a lot of hard work ahead. All Soul's provided hundreds of large poster boards, on which you could place whatever messages we wished to paint for the march. In truth, I hadn't been to church in many years, but I had to contribute to this communal event in some personal, tangible manner. My wife didn't go, but I saw one good, old friend, now in a wheel chair, whom I had not seen in quite some time. I had worked with him for years to acquire and renovate the Anthony Bowen YMCA, the first African-American YMCA in the country dating to 1853 [http://www.afro.com/sections/news/Washington/istory.htm?storyid=79357]. The building is now a National Historic Landmark. I put up my marching poster here in the house. My right knee is not good enough to stand a miles-long march. I've had a some problems with it lately, but it keeps me moving decently. I just try to keep up with the singing and listen to the speeches on the multiple TV sets in the house. I looked at all the coverage of today's 50-year memorial march program. Every station in town (local and national) had it on all day. I can't believe so much time has passed, and we still have so far to go. But it isn't over, 'til its over. The struggle continues. Keep up the good work. Hopefully, the arc will "…bend towards justice". Keep the faith. Stay well. Charles E. Countee 7509 17th Street NW Washington DC 20012 (202) 882-0854 cecountee@rcn.com