On Aug. 28, 1963, masses of tired bodies dressed in Sunday clothes marched in blazing heat and wearied feet to the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.
The threat of brutal beatings, burned buses, bombs and bullets could not impede our passionate pilgrimage to redeem the soul of America.
With momentum energized by the tune of one of the movement's spirituals, we kept singing, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around. Keep on a walkin', keep on a talkin', marching up to Freedom's Land."
To fully comprehend the meaning and magnitude of the 50th anniversary of the march requires consideration of the context of the original march as well as the content of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech.
If not, the magnificence of this moment might fall prey to romantic sentiments with marginal impact of issues today that have transformed King's dream into a nightmare.
Over the period of its evolution, King's dream speech has often been used to measure the pace of racial progress in America. At its zenith stands the election of the first president of African descent.
Yet at its nadir: the exploitation by right-wing activists such as Glen Beck, who in August of 2010 organized a pilgrimage for a religious rebirth in America at the site of King's speech.
To honor causes that dishonor the ideals for which Dr King gave his life is an unfortunate consequence of ignoring the historical context of the speech's content.
The march was preceded by the Battle in Birmingham in the spring of 1963 when civil rights activists launched what proved to be a watershed event in the struggle for racial equality.
Non-violent demonstrations were met with violence of high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs released on men, women and children.
National exposure of these troubling images constrained President John Kennedy to announce on prime-time television, "The events in Birmingham . . . have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them." The stage was set for the March on Washington.
Currently, the box office success of Lee Daniels' film "The Butler" complements the 50th observance of the march.