Thousands Arrive in D.C. to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington


The Washington Post is publishing live updates from today's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington:

The rally will include speeches from Attorney General Eric Holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Rev. Al Sharpton, among others. At 12:30 p.m., a march will leave the Lincoln Memorial, pass the memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and travel to the Washington Monument.

Live coverage here.

Starting with today's march, the nation will begin a series of events commemorating this historic civil rights moment leading up to the 50th anniversary on Wednesday of MLK Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech" at the Lincoln Memorial where Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Carter will speak.

ByardEliza Byard, the Executive Director at GLSEN, will be speaking at Wednesday's event, GLSEN reports:

Dr. Byard is the only leader of an LGBT organization selected to speak at the event.

Said Byard: “I am humbled and honored to represent GLSEN at the anniversary of one of the landmark moments in United States and world history. Dr. King and March on Washington organizer Bayard Rustin are personal heroes who have inspired me and influenced our work at GLSEN to create a better world for all. GLSEN has spent more than 20 years working to eliminate injustice and inequality directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in K-12 education, and I look forward to delivering a message of hope for a brighter future where every young person has an equal opportunity to get an education.”

GLSEN partner organizations working predominantly in the South nominated Dr. Byard to speak at the event, and the King Center selected her for the honor.

BondNAACP Chairman Emeritus, Julian Bond, in an email from the Human Rights Campaign, writes:

In August 1963, I was the Communications Director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led at the time by John Lewis, the march's youngest speaker that day.

A gay black man by the name of Bayard Rustin was one of the chief organizers – an early embodiment of the unity and commonality that bonded the movement for LGBT equality with the fight for equal treatment of African-Americans.

In his honor, HRC will help lead a commemoration of Bayard's incredible contributions to the civil rights movement on Monday. And it was recently announced that President Obama will posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian award in the United States.

Fifty years later, I can still feel the power of that noble, August day. Its weight is what drove me for years – from founding the Southern Poverty Law Center, to overseeing the NAACP as Chairman, not to mention the ten terms I served as a member of the Georgia legislature. And later, that exact same commitment to achieving equal rights is what convinced me to stand with the Human Rights Campaign in endorsing marriage equality.

Together we have marched millions of miles to land on the right side of history, and today we stand firmly planted, hoping only that more will join us, one by one, until everyone in this nation is truly free and equal. I know you are with the marchers today – in spirit and in solidarity – and I hope you'll follow the news coverage of today's powerful events.

(top image via david mixner, lower image via steven portnoy twitter,  8/24/2013)