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ASU March on West lets youth experience history

Hundreds rally, wave signs, cheer for equality during annual re-enactment of MLK's 1963 March on Washington

March on ASU West campus

January 18, 2017

Hundreds of young people rallied to re-enact Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark 1963 March on Washington at ASU’s West campus on Wednesday, where they waved signs, cheered for equality and listened to the “I Have A Dream” speech.

The 25th annual March on West featured speakers, a choir and educational workshops for middle school students from around the Phoenix area.

New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Dean Marlene Tromp said the event “gives her hope for the future.”

“You should all make a special effort to make your mark on the world, because you all having something to give,” Tromp said.

The West campus tradition dates back to 1991, when it began as a way to honor the civil rights leader before the state recognized MLK Day as a paid holiday. Every year since, said director of community relations Roberta Magdaleno, the event gives participants a chance to receive a hands-on experience to supplement what they learn in the classroom. 

“This event teaches students the history and purpose of the march and the importance of civil rights, even today,” she said.

The march began at 11 a.m. with the striking of the Bool Bell, immediately followed by a procession of more than 800 students and community members who were led by a trio of drummers south from the Paley Gates to the Sands courtyard reflecting pool.

Following remarks from Tromp and a performance of both the national anthem and the traditional black national anthem, James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies technical director Charles St. Clair delivered King’s famous speech.

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends,” he recited, adding later, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

At several moments throughout, St. Clair was drowned out by cheers and applause. 

ASU alum T.J. Jordan was in attendance as a volunteer chaperone for her daughter’s class.

“MLK Day has always been near and dear to my heart, culturally,” Jordan said, “and it’s important to bring my daughter to events like these that reinforce strong values.”

Small hands everywhere thrust posters high in the air with messages such as “We march for freedom” and “Equal rights for all.”

In closing remarks, associate professor Duku Anokye urged attendees to keep up the fight for freedom and to remember King’s words every day.

Dean Tromp similarly asked attendees to follow King’s example in exercising their democratic rights.

“I get to see people come through this campus and come out the other side and change the world,” Tromp said. “One day, that could be you.”

Top photo: Charles St. Clair recites Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech Wednesday during the annual March on West. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now