GREENSBORO, N.C. -- In the same building in which four black men sat at the once all-white lunch counter at the Woolworth store and requested to be served, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro will hold a program Wednesday night to commemorate the objectives that both they and Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated 50 years ago.
ICRCM executive director Bamidele Demerson reflected on the progress the country has made since King delivered his famous "I have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington on this date 50 years ago. He said the country and Greensboro, in particular, have come "a long way," but there is still much more that needs to be done in order to fulfill the dreams King and civil rights activists believed in.
Demerson said, "We've made tremendous progress in terms of legislation and court decisions relative to housing, education, medical care, but we still have a long way to go. We have made progress, and we have to envision ourselves as a nation of people who want to extend civil rights for everyone."
Sharon Warren Cook, Ph.D., interim chair of the department of sociology and social work at NC A&T reiterated Demerson's statements and said to move forward, this country has to both dissipate violence and peacefully discuss some of the factors causing continued discrimination. She said some of the current issues stem from structural and institutional barriers that have prevented equality, like the disparity in the demographic of the labor force, new voter ID laws and a mentality that is not yet universal.
Cook said, "We've got employment issues, we certainly have unemployment issues, we have issues that relate to crime and punishment...and a number of those laws that we need to examine, because they continue to appear to disproportionately impact some minority groups."
Cook, along with a panel of civil rights experts, will give remarks and engage in a discussion with the public at the ICRCM's March on Washington program Wednesday evening. The event begins at 6 p.m. and focuses on the vision the marchers had for a changing America, whether they accomplished their objectives and the civil rights issues that engage Americans today.
ICRCM curatorial program associate Lolita Watkins encourages the public to attend the program at 6 p.m., which costs $6 for adults, $4 for children and nothing for museum members. Upon their entry to the program auditorium, attendees will pass through and can examine the new Martin Luther King, Jr. exhibit-instituted in honor of King's birthday in January.