As the William & Mary campus bustled with the activity of the first day of classes, a moment of quiet commemoration provided a brief calm to the otherwise vibrant air.
Approximately 50 members of the campus community gathered in the Wren Courtyard on Wednesday to honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, known most famously for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
King’s speech was given at around 3 p.m., and that is the time at which event organizer Rachel Cason ’14 arranged for the bell in the Wren Building to ring five times, once for each decade that has passed since that defining moment of the Civil Rights movement. Similar assemblies at over 300 sites around the country also rang bells from churches, schools, and historical monuments as a tribute to King’s plea to “let freedom ring.”
The bell was rung by Cason as well as representatives from the William & Mary chapter of the NAACP and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, of which King was a member.
Vernon Hurte, director of the center for student diversity, was on hand and reflected on what the gathering meant to the campus.
“I think it’s really important, as we prepare to welcome officially and formally new members of this community,” he said. “As I look at the representation of this community today, the reality is that 50 years ago this sight would not be the case.”Cason shared a poem by Royston Allen entitled “Freedom,” in which the author describes that concept which was so central to the struggle of King and his fellow activists. In particular, she highlighted the closing line of the poem, “freedom no money can buy,” saying that “it’s truly through our passion and our commitment to fighting for social justice… that we can make any type of change.”