Wednesday, August 28, 2013 was not only the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington D.C. and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, it was also a day for a peace rally and march in Boston, both of which I attended. Participating in public witness for causes near and dear to one’s heart is uplifting. The rally at Faneuil Hall Square was organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns / No More Names tour and featured impressive speakers including, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, and Mayor Thomas Menino. Ed Markey was particularly passionate saying that it is wrong that one organization, the NRA, should be able to hold our nation hostage while 31,000 people are killed with guns each year. Some simple reforms to gun control laws (mandatory background checks,
bans on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips) would go some way to reducing the death rate. Over 1000 Mayors in cities across America (including the Mayor of my hometown, Attleboro) belong to this organization so there is hope that change is on the way from the grassroots.
For lunch I crossed Government Plaza and ate at Panera Cares, a different kind of café run by Panera Bread. Here people pay what they can afford for lunch – if you can contribute more you do so to help pay for those who have no money. Those who cannot pay are asked to give one hour in labor in exchange for a meal. Because of the volunteers this is one Panera Café that has table service! They call it “a café of shared responsibility”, a neat idea and practical way to make a difference. We need a deeper sense of community responsibility on the part of corporations. Most of them think caring for people is not their business. Well done, Panera Bread!
Around the corner is the Memorial Peace Garden, where homicide victims are remembered by the inscription of their names, their birth and death dates, on large stones in the midst of a peaceful garden. Here gathered the marchers for the Memorial March for Peace to remember victims of violence and to honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. There were a couple of people present who had participated in the 1963 March. Harvey told me that he had travelled by bus from Newton with a group organized by the NAACP and he proudly wore various buttons from the event. “I was one of only two white guys on the bus – had a great time”, he said.
I was sitting on the sidelines when Greg Wayland, a reporter from New England Cable News, asked if he might interview me. The upshot was that a short sound bite from yours truly was featured in the NECN newscast that evening. Here’s the link to it: http://www.necn.com/searchNECN/search/v/80163224/boston-commemorates-50th-anniversary-of-march-on-washington.htm?q=Memorial+March+for+peace
The March began at 2 p.m. and I was glad to see several American Baptist ministers and a group from First Baptist Church, Newton Centre, including two professors from Andover-Newton Theological School, Mark Heim and Greg Mobley. We stopped at the State House for a group photo, opposite one of the greatest works of American sculpture, The Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, which honors the African American regiment which fought in the Civil War.
The walk proceeded through the Boston Common and Gardens along Beacon Street and through Back Bay. It was a hot day and I do not do well in the sun, so I opted to stop after 2.5 miles at Kenmore Square and go the rest of the way to Newton by train. But, I had several good conversations with walkers, including Isaac Seelam of the Greater Boston International Student Ministry http://gbism.org/About_us.html; Andre Sheldon, a peace activist, http://www.globalstrategyofnonviolence.org/; and Josh, an advocate for prisoners, http://exprisoners.org/about Several family members of homicide victims took a leading role. The sponsors included the Bobby Mendes Peace Legacy and the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute.
There was food and hospitality at First Baptist Church, Newton Centre, along with singers and musicians encouraging everyone to join in the songs of freedom from the civil rights era. It was a pleasant surprise to see Pete Seeger at the church. Where are the singers of freedom and justice today? Where are the prophets who might inspire a nation the way Martin Luther King Jr. did?
I felt privileged to spend the day in the company of people who are working for peace. I am grateful for whatever my presence and voice added.