More than a hundred people gathered on the morning of August 25th, inside the historic Metropolitan AME Church in northwest, D.C. to witness the closing ceremonies for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.
In an outpouring of appreciation, clergy and congregation rose together for a heartfelt ovation for the Rev. Al Sharpton, honoring his outstanding leadership, guidance, organization and execution of the now historic National Action to Realize the Dream March. Appreciation was also shown for special guests Charles J. Ogletree Jr., professor and founder of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University Law School, and professor and author Michael Eric Dyson.
The congregation gave special honors to Metropolitan AME senior pastor, the Rev. Ronald E. Braxton, for graciously offering the church as the central location for the March’s preliminary planning and preparatory discussions. The church served as the original headquarters in planning the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rev. Braxton stood and addressed his congregation with praise and compassion, appealing for their participation in the ongoing fight for effective gun control legislation. “We must stand against the ‘Stand Your Ground law”, he said, adding that the strength of the Black community lies in unity, and unity is found within the church.
“If the black church does not stand, our community will be lost. We are the voice.”
Rev. Sharpton read from St. Luke, chapter 17, verse 11: the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus and yet, only one leper returned to thank him.
“What happened to the rest?” asked Rev. Sharpton. He related the passage to the many men and women whose lives have benefited from the Civil Rights Movement, but who have yet to return or acknowledge the African American community, church, or the movement itself.
“Many who succeeded because of the March did not return…those who gained wealth and success, those who sit where their grandfather couldn’t…. you got what you wanted and did not come back to thank him.”
Steward Ernest Green, of the Little Rock Nine, gave the ceremony’s official welcoming, and spoke proudly of his experience at the August 24th March on Washington. Extending words of wisdom to the congregation’s younger generation seated before him, he said “I may not be here for the next so we look to you, the next generation, to carry on our legacy.”