You can march for hate, or you can march for love.
Monday in Fort Wayne, about 100 people marched and prayed for the latter. A relativelysmall crowd in this gregarious city, walking four by four across the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge, converging under a set of borrowed klieg lights at Freimann Square, straining to hear the speakers over the roar of the fountain and an invisible sea of screaking cicadas.
“It feels like a small thing to do to show up,” said Rachel Gross, a white woman who had come from North Manchester with her husband for the march. “I'm a person of privilege living in this country. I appreciate the message of Dr. Martin Luther King – I feel like we've really gotten away from that.”
The event, organized by the Rev. Bill McGill, pastor of Imani Baptist Church, honored the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech that day. McGill ended Monday's event by reading it in a voice that approximated the power and timbre of the late civil rights leader's delivery.
Fifty-four years later, the words still have the power to move those who care about justice and equality. But there is a wistfulness about them now, as if King's vision of a nation where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” is more distant today than it was when his voice thundered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Bruce Talley, an African-American man who at 63 is just old enough to remember those times, framed the issue in hope as he wheeled his bicycle across the bridge.
“I think things are better,” he said. There are “just a few bad apples – things have gotten a lot better since those days.”
But the message he hopes today's marcheswill send sounds a lot like something Dr. King would have said if he had been walking down Clinton Street Monday evening.
“We all have the same thing,” Talley said. “One God, one world, one nation, one people.”