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Bristol Lion a Witness to History 01/21/2011

Posted by DS in meetings, speakers.
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On Martin Luther King Day, the Bristol Area Lions Club was treated to a rare snapshot of history when Lion Lee Rushmore shared her eyewitness experience of participating in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington, DC in August 1963. Using slides and personal recollections, she painted a picture of a seminal event in American history. Leading up to that hot summer day, there had been numerous instances of racial strife and political discord over segregation and economic equality. Organized by A. Philip Randolph and Barrett Rustin, this first-ever large scale march was planned to push for passage of the Civil Rights Act.

The organizers succeeded in rallying over 200,000 people to participate in the march, selling 25 cent buttons to finance the event. It took 2000 chartered buses, 22 chartered trains, 10 chartered airplanes and innumerable cars to transport that many individuals to Washington, DC. Deeply committed to human rights and pacifism, Rushmore was invited by the American Friends Service Committee to be a marshal for her bus group. Although admitting that most had no idea what to expect, they were certain about bearing witness to a turning point in history. All along the bus route bystanders waved and thanked the well dressed marchers, largely African American, for their effort to push for equality in a peaceful way.

Eighteen speakers and assorted musical numbers were listed on the event program, with Martin Luther King, Jr. the last to address those assembled. Interestingly, what has gone down in history as the “I Have a Dream” speech was largely unscripted. When urged by singer Mahalia Jackson to share his dream for the future, Martin Luther King, Jr. went off-script and gave a soaring extemporaneous sermon focusing on hope. According to Rushmore, there was a feeling at that moment that the nation had turned a corner, that the Civil Rights movement was not just a black movement but an American movement. Singer Marian Anderson capped off the program by performing, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

Attending Rushmore’s presentation to the Lions Club were guests Phil Blomquist and Phyllis and Reverend Robert Ives. The latter remarked that his father also had attended the March on Washington, DC and had deemed it a pivotal day in his life as well.

The Bristol Area Lions Club will meet next on Monday, February 7, when the annual Lions Club Speak Out competition will take place. To make dinner reservations for that meeting, or to learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, please call 677-2095.

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