In honor of Dr Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech, Jamii Hitchcock will share her experiences from her recent trip to Washington. She participated in the re-creation of the March on Washington this past weekend. Jamii is Principal of Beverly Elementary School in Birmingham Michigan. I appreciate her thoughts and sentiments and for her sharing her personal thoughts on this monumental anniversary. Enjoy her powerful reflection.
What Dreams Are Made Of
When arrived at BWI airport, I knew that making this trip was worth it. It may not appear to be a sacrifice for most, but taking a trip the weekend before the staff returns to the building is not the best idea. However, this sacrifice pales in comparison to those who made significant efforts to arrive in Washington DC to fight for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago.
When my carry on luggage hit the sidewalk and we rolled through the front entrance of the enormous lobby of the hotel, even this small thing was a sign of tremendous progress. I had not done any price comparisons when I decided to attend the march and somehow we landed in a 5-star hotel in downtown DC. It occurred to me that standing at the registration desk with my cousin Lisa who is a physician discussing whether or not we needed assistance with our bags was an amazing juxtaposition to what the experience many must have had 50 years ago. A concierge literally tripped he was moving so quickly to accommodate our requests and to provide an itinerary for us to share the August 24 events. Even this, I thought, is progress. We decide to drop our bags off in our room and return to the lobby of this beautiful hotel to grab a bite to eat. We walked into the hotel restaurant and sit at the bar without a second thought. There were people of all different ethnicities sitting at the bar together eating, laughing and enjoying good company. CNN’s special of the March on Washington displayed on the TV monitor behind the bar flashed various clips on the original march and struggle. That America, is unrecognizable, especially being a principal in an affluent, suburban school and my cousin a physician in New York. But, we both realize that these ills plagued our society in our mothers’ lifetime.
As we’re sitting in the lobby and feeling great about the differences in how we have been treated compared to what it must have been like 50 years ago, a man walks through the entry of the hotel restaurant who serves as a reminder that although we’ve made significant progress, we have not quite made it yet. This man was Daryl Parks, the partner of Crump and Parks Attorneys at Law. Daryl and his partner Ben Crump represent the Trayvon Martin family. Meeting Mr. Parks was a pleasure, but it cast a small shadow over my excitement about the progress that has been made.
On the morning of August 24, we are so excited to attend the march that we grab Starbucks, but not breakfast! We eagerly and swiftly walk a short distance to the National Mall. Then, we realize that people are here in mass numbers. The mall is crowded with people who are still fighting for freedom and jobs. On the left side of the mall where I am standing with my friend and cousin the crowd listens attentively. While on the right side, the crowd is chanting and fist pumping throughout each speech. We felt in our hearts that it was important to attend today, but the speeches clarified the reason that the fight for civil rights must continue. It was on that National Mall that we realized all of the sacrifices that had been made for us to be afforded privileges we enjoy each day. Cory Booker, told a story of his father explaining to him that he should always remember where he has come from. He explained that with all of his success that his father humbled him by telling him, “don’t walk around here like you hit a “triple” when you landed on third”. He reminded us that our generation has been afforded opportunities and we have a moral imperative to do the same for generations of people who come after us. In addition to very powerful speeches given by people of all races, genders, and sexual orientations, we listened as older people near us in the crowd spoke about the first time they attended the March on Washington 50 years ago. I was highly impressed with senior citizens who stood in the blazing 80-degree temperatures for over six hours to be a part of the anniversary of this powerful movement with no food or water. They reminded us that 50 years ago, they also were dressed professionally – no shorts and gym shoes as we wore.
At the end of the march, I knew that it was not only important that we made the trip to be a part of such an amazing event, we owed this and more to the countless men and women who made tremendous sacrifices for us during the civil rights movement. We slowly walked back to our hotel in silence with each of us knowing that we had witnessed and been a part of something that was truly meaningful and historical. We had made history on that National Mall today. This contribution was just a drop in the bucket to the debt that we owed so many. It was humbling. This movement grounded and galvanized us at the same time. Being a principal and physician didn’t seem as important as being a freedom rider, jailed, or forced to use a water fountain marked “COLORED”. As conflicting as it may seem, we were more humble and more proud than we had arrived.
My trip to Washington DC ended with practicing empathy and restraint as I watched an exhausted, grief-stricken family walk swiftly by me in the lobby of our hotel. Although I have tremendous respect for Trayvon Martin’s family, I just could not bring myself to ask for a picture. To be clear, I REALLY wanted one! Although I had been watching the media coverage of Trayvon Martin’s family for over a year, this small encounter humanized Sybrina Fulton, Tracey Martin, and Jahvaris Fulton. This grieving family had not anticipated that the death of their teenage son would catapult them into being civil rights icons. We all knew that they deserved to grieve privately. We headed to the hotel restaurant to grab a bite to eat while trying to wrap our heads around what we were feeling and had experienced throughout the day. I am so proud that I stood on the National Mall with a diverse range of people who recognize progress, but understand that there is still progress to be made. As we all headed our separate ways, we knew that this experience was an opportunity of a lifetime and one that we would never forget! This is what dreams are made of! Thank you Dr. King. Thank you.