August 29, 2013

Couple from original March on Washington join re-enactment in Rocklin

Eleanor Hunt, 72, of Santa Barbara vividly recalled the experience of participating in the March on Washington 50 years ago.

Eleanor Hunt, 72, of Santa Barbara vividly recalled the experience of participating in the March on Washington 50 years ago.

"It was wonderful," she said. "It was physical as well as emotional. We knew we were part of history. Really, we did feel that. It was wonderful."

Wednesday, on the anniversary of the famous march and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, Hunt and her husband, Tom, 73, took part in a re-enactment of the march at Sierra College in Rocklin.

"This is so exciting, " she said, as she posed for photos and signed autographs for students.

The march around the campus ended with a reading of King's speech by students and community members in the quad. Participants were also invited to attend a talk by the Hunts in the auditorium afterwards.

The event at Sierra College was organized by sociology professor Jennifer Kattman, 36, of Roseville and sponsored by a student group, the Beyond Diversity Club.

"I feel it's very important to recognize the importance of the event," said Kattman. "Students were active in the original march and they should be active in continuing his (King's) dream."

She had signs made for the marchers that were replicas of ones carried in the March on Washington. One that read: "We march for effective civil rights now!" was a version of what the Hunts held 50 years ago.

One of the participants, Wayne Robinson, 38, of Auburn, not only brought his family Wednesday, but also 30 special education students from the Sacramento County Office of Education.

"It's important that they know about civic engagement in their community without violence," he said. "It's great for them to take part in this."

Ayanna Gammel, 37, of Sacramento brought her 5-year-old stepson, Nathan Gammel, to the march.

"We came here to be a part of the 50th celebration of Martin Luther King's speech and teach him about the principles (in the speech)," she said. "We still need this."

After the march, both Tom and Eleanor Hunt read passages from King's speech.

Tom Hunt, adding the word "daughters" to King's speech, read: "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons and daughters of former slaves and sons and daughters of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

He chose that particular section because it was the reason that he, and later his wife, decided to become civil rights lawyers.

Tom Hunt said it meant that people from diverse backgrounds "will work together to solve the problems of discrimination and segregation."

Both were college students – Tom at Harvard Law School, Eleanor at Boston University – when they decided to go to Washington, D.C., to hear King. They caught a ride on a bus in Syracuse, N.Y.

One of the most vivid memories Eleanor Hunt had of arriving in Washington was the reception the residents gave to the 2,000 buses that descended on the city.

"They lined the streets, and would wave and say 'hi' and we would wave and say 'hi' back," she recalled. "It was an incredible, moving experience."

She said she didn't know what to expect once they got there as so many people responded "to the call of the march."

"The feel of the entire crowd was that we were all together. To me, it was a wave, a tsunami – after that day, everything was going to be all right," she said.

Tom Hunt said King's speech was inspiring.

"We were very moved by the rhetoric and content of his speech," he said.

"Some people were crying when he was doing 'I have a dream.' "

Kara McGinnis, 30, of Citrus Heights, a student at Sierra College and a member of the Beyond Diversity Club, had looked forward to the Hunts' presentation.

She said just seeing the turnout for the re-enactment made an impression.

"It was incredible," she said. "It's a time in my life that I will never forget. It was inspiring."

Call The Bee's Tillie Fong, (916) 321-1006.

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