50th Anniversary March on Washington

Marching with folks from the Williamsburg, VA UU
Marching with folks from the Williamsburg, VA UU

“So deep, so wide.” I sing with Peter Gabriel (“Washing of the Water”) as I think about all of this. “River, river, carry me high:” river of people, York River, James River, rivers all around me, the rivers of Virginia where life has surprisingly returned me, rivers of Virginia that first brought human beings in chains to this soil – those who came with no luggage, whose past was erased, whose future was a daily indecipherable horror.

Now we are a river of humanity marching together, smiling, singing past the marble monuments of Washington, D.C., past a white house built by slaves. All of us, the sons and daughters of slaves and slavemasters, joyous in our commonality of purpose, healing. Just as my venerable friend, Sonny Ochs, had related to me about the march in 1963, the most obvious and memorable part was the people, people of every color, shape, and size, together, with no stress, no distress.

On Saturday, I was one of tens of thousands – and glad to be. My story was one of tens of thousands. It came to me moment by moment, for to be in this moment was to be in a river of memories.  Some are jolting to an adult so long gone. So much was paved over with the cobblestones of my home town, Richmond, VA. I remembered driving to find the Reconcilliation Statue in Shocko Bottom and looked up to see the familiar clock tower of Main St. Station, where my father went to work on the C&O Railroad. Three hundred thousand slaves were sold away just yards from where we would wave goodbye to my dad. This was a couple of miles from where I grew up playing Yankees and Rebels, a few more from where the marching band would play Dixie at halftime of the high school football
games and everyone would stand up and put their hands over their heart. I knew the name of every Confederate general, hated U.S. Grant. But no one ever, ever talked about the slaves.

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