SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Two hundred Minnesotans commemorated the 1963 March on Washington with a march of their own on Wednesday.
It was the 50th Anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The speech is regarded as a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement during the turbulent 1960's, which would suffer through the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy as well as King, himself.
The 1963 march, however, was entirely peaceful, as non-violence advocate King had hoped.
Max Fallek, 83, of Saint Louis Park, was one of 58 Minnesotans in an official delegation to the 1963 March. They had boarded a Northwest Orient Prop airliner at 4:30 a.m. in the Twin Cities for the four hour flight to the nation's capital.
"The president of the company (his employer) tried to discourage me from going because he said there are going to be riots. There are going to be shootings," recalled Fallek. "How can you do this to your family?"
Fallek says he took it upon himself to be a cheerleader for the group.
"I made copies of the Minnesota Rouser, which I then passed out to everybody on the plane and helped break the ice and we all started singing the Minnesota Rouser," said Fallek.
In Washington, D.C., they were met by Minnesota's congressional delegation, including Senators Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy.
Fallek was representing Temple Israel of Minneapolis on the 1963 March. "We started organizing to fight discrimination here in Minneapolis," said Fallek. "We were the first religious group to do so."
Fallek recalled running forward to hear King's great, but brief, 17 minute speech. "Even at that moment," he said, "we felt this was really something that was going to go down in the annuals of history. It was just wonderful."
"We then took the pledge of non-violence and a pledge to work toward a voting rights bill and the various elements of that and, of course, more jobs."
As for the progress toward King's dream of true equality, the old civil rights activist said the country has been going backwards of late.
"I feel we have made a lot of progress and we were continuing to make a lot of progress until the Roberts (U.S. Supreme) Court has taken over," said Fallek. "With the Roberts Court, they have now ruled against Affirmative Action. They have ruled against one section of the voting rights bill."
Fallek expressed dissatisfaction with voting restriction laws in Texas, North Carolina and Florida. "Very restrictive voting requirements," he commented.
The 1963 March and speeches were recalled and commemorated by the Wednesday march through the streets of Saint Paul, ending at a noon rally on the State Capitol lawn.
Congressman Keith Ellison told the 200 marchers about the racially restrictive conditions that existed in the United States in 1963.
"It was an offense, not just to African-Americans, people of color, but to everyone in this country," said Ellison. "We had to correct that grievous injustice in order for America to have any chance to live up to its real potential."
He urged several young men in the march to be aware of those who had come before them.
"Because you guys will never see a 'whites only' sign, because other people before you made sure that we got rid of them," said Ellison. "Because those people made that sacrifice for you, you have a duty, obligation and responsibility to make this world better for the next generation."