The 14th Street bus trip from our neighborhood to downtown Washington often causes me to think of Martin Luther King, Jr. Usually I think of King because of the street's vacant lots and burned-out buildings that stand as a reminder of black Washington's explosion of grief and rage when King was killed. Today many of those desolate intersections and abandoned storefronts are the stomping grounds of heroin addicts. The inscription for this monument to dreams deferred is found spray-painted on a wall by one vacant lot. It reads simply, "Ain't no freedom in this damned land."
But on Saturday morning, August 27, 14th Street was a different place. For a while the memory of King's death was replaced by the bright hope and promise of his life as people emptied out of the apartment buildings and row houses to join the Twentieth Anniversary March on Washington for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom.
At 7:45 that morning the downtown bus was already as full as it would be at the peak of a workday rush hour. And at each stop along the way there was another cluster of people with sun hats and Thermos jugs ready to march in the 95 degree heat. There were older people for whom the march 20 years ago had been but one signpost in a long search for freedom. And there were younger people who were taking this opportunity to connect themselves to a proud history and to make a plea for their future. There were black mothers and fathers herding along their excited children. And there were even Rastafarians who would probably not have a kind word for any Christian preacher except King.