Locals head to D.C. to commemorate March on Washington

August 25, 2013

Written by Brian Tumulty, Gannett Washington bureau

WASHINGTON — Bernard Dickerson of Rochester attended Saturday’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to help re-energize the fight for equality in America.

“I think some progress has been made, but I think there’s still a big disparity between the rich and the poor,” Dickerson said. “And the educational system in a lot of cities like Rochester is broken.”

Dickerson, 48, works at Baden Street Settlement in Rochester helping first-graders at School 9.

He was among Rochester and Buffalo members of Service Employees International Union Local 1199 who left for Washington by bus at 11 p.m. Friday to make Saturday’s event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Another SEIU Local 1119 member making the trip was Tracey Harrison, 42, of Rochester.

Harrison said it was difficult hearing what speakers at the event were saying, but he felt a sense of community with the tens of thousands of people who converged on the National Mall.

Harrison said he attended to gain “a once-in-a-lifetime experience and to give thanks to those who … fought inequality and injustice, not just for me but for my children and my children’s children.”

Labor unions and churches chartered many of the buses that came from as far away as Florida and Minnesota to attend the commemoration held under sunny skies.

Latoya Ranselle, 27, of Buffalo arrived on one of four buses the New York State United Teachers sent from Buffalo. The union paid for participants’ bus fares and a box lunch.

“People who couldn’t afford it were able to come,” Ranselle said. “The message is for the young people to pay it forward. We still have a long way to go, and we know Martin Luther King died for our right to vote. It’s about keeping his dream alive. There’s a lot of young people here, and they will learn a lot from today.”

Dickerson said he was most impressed by the large number of people attending.

“To see so many people interested in a cause that started so many years ago and seeing blacks and whites and Chinese and Indians and all kinds of people is impressive,” he said. “We are struggling not just for one kind of people, but for all.”

Includes reporting by Alan Gomez and Eliza Collins, USA TODAY.

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