Nearly two dozen people met outside of the Scotland County Courthouse on Wednesday evening to commemorate the spirit of the 1963 March on Washington and carry it forward in combating the political issues of today.
Robert Malloy, former president of the Scotland County NAACP and a former Laurinburg police chief, recounted the other events of that tumultuous year: the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, the death of four young black girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Malloy also recalled the state of Laurinburg in 1963, when the town’s first two black police officers, Willie McNair and Frank Brown, were hired.
“When they were first hired in the city of Laurinburg, they could only drive one car and they had to work the side of town that blacks lived on,” said Malloy. “They were not able to work the entire city. And just before integration, if you wanted ice cream or anything from the drugstore, once you walked in the door you had to stand at the counter if you wanted to be served. You couldn’t go any further.
“We’ve gone from that back in 1963 to in 1989 me ordering all the cars for the police department.”
As the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Wednesday was also the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech.
“There are many who feel that Dr. King was just for black folk, but Dr. King was for everyone and he brought a conscience to this nation,” Malloy said. “Dr. King had that thing that David had when he confronted Goliath with five stones and a slingshot, Dr. King had that thing that Rosa Parks had when she refused to give up her seat on the bus.”
Wednesday’s event was held also to show support for North Carolina’s educators, many of whom are now faced with administering schools and teaching students with a diminishing level of state funding.
There is also a brunch for former and current teacher assistants in the school system. It is sponsored by the Scotland County Civic League planned for today at 1 p.m. at Bright Hopewell Baptist Church in Laurinburg.
“Your Democratic elected officials, most of whom have your best interests at heart, don’t have the numbers,” said Walter Rogers, former chairman of the 8th District Black Leadership Caucus. “So the only thing they can do is try to negotiate, try to help people to understand what is fair and what is reasonable.”
Rogers added that next year’s elections could reverse the state’s trend of budget cuts if the supermajority of Republican legislators is displaced.
“What I can say about those people who are in your state legislature that are concerned about low-wealth people and people of color is that they are working as hard as they can,” said Rogers. “But what they need you to remember is that there is going to come another election day; 2014 will be one of the most important elections you see in our lifetime.”
Scotland County Clerk of Court Philip McRae said that King’s work should not be consigned to a textbook without hope of revival.
“When you talk about Dr. King or John Kennedy or any of those folks in that era, it’s almost like you’re talking about Moses - this person that lived 2,000 years ago,” said McRae. “It’s like they’re so far away that they hold this station that you could never approach. But Dr. King was a guy who we used to watch on TV, that’s how we found out about him and you could see it as it was happening.”
Scotland County NAACP President Terence Williams also urged those in attendance to draw inspiration from King and to fight for their beliefs.
“We have to ask ourselves what are we going to do when we see Medicaid getting cut, what are we going to do when unemployment is getting cut, what are we going to do when voters’ rights are being infringed upon? I don’t know where you were in 1963, but in 2013 you have an opportunity to do something.”