Detroit marks anniversary of 'I Have a Dream' speech with march

Jun 23, 2013

Fifty years ago this weekend in Detroit, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. previewed his “I Have a Dream” speech before the historic March on Washington.  This morning, Detroiters honored the occasion with a modern civil rights march.

Detroit's Martin Luther King Jr. High School's band led thousands of marchers down Woodward Avenue to Hart Plaza where scheduled speakers included King's son and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

A diverse group of all ages hailed from around Detroit and in some cases as far as Buffalo, New York. Many spoke about wanting to celebrate Dr. King's legacy. But there were also pointed signs and chants about a wide range of issues, including Detroit's debt and Michigan's Right to Work law. 

Frank Joyce was a community organizer and activist in Detroit in 1963. He was at Dr. King's speech 50 years ago.

"There was this sense of being engaged with other people, being a part of something bigger than we had realized," he said. "That's what the power of that march was and that's part of the value of a big demonstration." 

Marcher Dave Ivers said he hoped the march would send a message about economic issues to policy makers.

"In 1963 I was under the Mediterranean in a submarine. And I had to be here for this one," said Ivers. "I think today the message even more than in 1963 is jobs. We need jobs that pay a living wage. That's number one."

Ivers and fellow marcher Stacy Owens said that despite Detroit's struggles, they still felt there was something to celebrate. 

"We've come a long way for everyone to unite as one, all races and colors and everybody," said Owens. "And we still have dreams. We have dreams that we want life to be better."

The march brought together a variety of activists working on issues from education to welfare to housing.

Sarah Lawson is a volunteer working on immigration issues with students in the Detroit Public Schools. 

"We feel like it's important for his legacy, for Dr. King's dream, to go on," she said. "We're all fighting for the same reason: equality." 

Check out a slideshow below with pictures and sound from the march.

-Sarah Alvarez and Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom