He was 23 when he watched on television as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made that historic march on Washington, D.C., in 1963.
Growing up black in New Orleans, steeped in a culture of discrimination, Robert Mikell of Fresno never imagined he'd be retracing King's footsteps 50 years later in an anniversary march that was "both emotional as well as jubilant."
Mikell was among the tens of thousands of people who converged on the National Mall on Saturday to commemorate King's electrifying speech and to rally for civil rights.
"It was unbelievable," said Mikell, a retired Fresno State professor of ethnic studies, management and marketing. "I got more out of that than I could have imagined, and with my daughter, Carla, representing two generations … (the next generation) needs to press on and continue to fight for equality, to maintain a humanitarian way of interacting with others."
The march was both a celebration of what has been accomplished and an acknowledgment of what remains undone to fulfill King's dream, he said.
"What the speakers were urging was for people to go back to their communities and continue to work toward bringing about changes at the local level," he said.
Speakers talked about racial profiling, voting rights and broken families, Mikell said.
Looking at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Saturday, Mikell paid special attention to some of King's famous words, now engraved in stone:
"He said, and I'm paraphrasing, 'We can all live together or we can perish as fools,' " Mikell said. "This is something he said 50 years ago, and it is very much relevant today."
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