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Martin Luther King Jr.

WNYers Share Their Memories of March on Washington

50 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington.

Some Western New Yorkers who were there then share their memories now.

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50 Years Ago....

Activist and former Buffalo Mayoral Candidate Sam Herbert was 14 years old and attended the March on Washington with his father. He spoke about it with John & Susan Wednesday morning.

Lesley Haynes, a board member of B.U.I.L.D of  Buffalo,   was a young newlywed who was encouraged to join the NAACP and go to the March.

Attorney Marilyn Hochfield of Kavinoky & Cook was at the March, and says fighting for voting rights is as important today as the other civil rights issues were then.

Sam Herbert grew up a minister's son in Harlem.

"He told my brothers and me we were going to hear Dr. King speak and we were to listen," recalls Herbert. But he didn't get the message until a couple of years after the speech.

"Maybe I was 17 when I became focused on, 'Wow, people dislike me because of the color of my skin and I'm a nice person.' My father told me that was why he moved up north from Greenbow, Alabama. He said he wasn't going to raise any of his children to call children the same age Mr. or Mrs."

Herbert's neighborhood was filled with all nationalities and they all got along. "I never knew what it was to live in an all-black environment," recalls Herbert. "I had discussions with teachers, neighbors, and my family, and that's when I became familiar with the term racism."

Lesley Haynes was born in Britain, and moved here several years ago. 50 years ago, she was living in Massachusetts, and was inspired to fight for civil rights after the assassination of NAACP President Medger Evers.

"The whole community was traumatized," says Haynes of the assassination. She says there were people of all races at that march.

"We felt there were more than 250,000 that day. There were at least 70,000 white people who were there, and modern day, that doesn't get noticed," recalls Haynes. She says it was an emotional day, as one white man walked by a black woman crying and not understanding the emotion of the day.

Marilyn Hochfield was also part of that march, and she too was also inspired by Evers.

"Just about a month or so before his assassination he was speaking in Ohio about a fair housing bill. He was enormously impressive, and I will never forget what he said about what it took for a black to try and register to vote in Mississippi," says Hochfield. When her group took off to Washington, Buffalo Bill Cookie Gilchrist dropped by to see them off.

Hochfield says she wanted to be back in Washington this past weekend to remind this generation of the current fight for voting rights. "Try to focus on these rights and the attempts to reverse the progress in making voting easier," says Hochfield.

Herbert believes King would be concerned about violence. "I think he would be disheartened with the actions of blacks, and the hatred of blacks on blacks, black boys killing other black boys," says Herbert.

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