Michael Lowery was at the first March on Washington 57 years ago with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
After attending the March on Washington on Aug. 28, Lowery feels he and others are still fighting for the same equality, but in different ways.
“We are still fighting some of the same battles,” he said. “There have been changes no doubt; such as when I was growing up there were Black and white signs around town at the theater in all the restaurants and just everywhere like the courthouse, the same courthouse that is there now. Some of the same things are happening — but just in different ways.”
Lowery’s life has revolved around civil rights and the advancement of equality of all races in the United States.
“I thought we would be better off by now,” he said. “I didn’t think we would have some of the things going on like Confederate statues in places where we pay taxes, and I also didn’t think we would be fighting some of the same old issues of racism and brutality and all these kinds of things,” he said. “Some things have changed outwardly but not inward. ”
Lowery said this year’s March on Washington was a celebration of Black Lives Matter, and in remembrance of the recent killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and the shooting and hospitalization of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, whose families spoke at the march.
“It really was a good celebration for me,” he said. “I went back … because I felt it was necessary to go back because there was so much going on in the country, and I felt like us going was making a statement that it was time to bring about a change on some of the things that is going on in the country.”
Lowery said hearing the families of those killed and injured speak was “upsetting.”
“There were so many times it was like deja vu all over again,” Lowery said.
Lowery reflected on the first march he attended.
“I went with my grandmother and my dad and there were a lot of church members there,” he said. “It was almost like a church service. People were crying and shouting and rejoicing. To see that march and hearing Dr. King deliver that speech … it was a jubilant time. They were there to celebrate the Civil Rights movement and to celebrate how far we’ve come and how far we knew we needed to go.”
Lowery believes the solution is simplistic.
“I think one of the ways is to treat people the way you would like to be treated,” he said. “I think following the Golden Rule, and I know that’s very simplistic, but if people could get that in their hearts … it has to start somewhere, and I think that is a good starting point. If we did that it would be fine, but we say one thing and have one thing written and we do the very opposite. I think if we tried to live up to the values and the things that govern us we would go pretty far.
“People are being killed for just wanting their rights,” Lowery said. “That’s just hard. That kind of stuff is unforgivable and there’s no reason for it. It has to stop somewhere and we are afraid for our children and our grandchildren. For them to know they have no protection and all they have to do is be black and they are susceptible to death, that’s a horrible feeling and you don’t know how to prepare young people for that.”
Lowery said there were some takeaways from this year’s march.
“I think some people misunderstand we are not talking about every policeman being racist or not doing the right thing we are talking about where it is happening it needs to be recognized and dealt with,” he said. “People are just tired of asking for something that under the constitution should be their right to have. They were born in this country, they worked and met all the criteria and yet they are treated like second class citizens and you’re wondering what else do I have to do and it is simply because the color of your skin and you can’t change that.
“I think people misunderstand that nobody is asking for a hand out, or to be treated special,” Lowery said. “All we want is to be treated the same way rather than somebody have special treatment and others don’t even get consideration just because of the way they were born or the color of their skin. That’s a terrible feeling. I’ve lived through that.”
The march also gave Lowery hope.
“It was not just black people there,” he said. “Just like at the first march, there were people form all walks of life there; all creeds and colors. There were thousands of young people there. That gives me hope.”