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Reflecting on I Have A Dream

Rochester, N.Y.Fifty years ago Wednesday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous I Have A Dream speech during the March on Washington.

At the time, there were about 200 Rochester area residents who made the trip down to D.C. to participate in the march.

Among them were Daan Braveman and Dr. Walter Cooper two men who, in 1963, were at very different points in their lives. They came together because of their passion for social justice.

Currently, Daan Braveman is the president of Nazareth College, but in 1963, he was a 15-year-old sophomore at Brighton High School.

He got involved in the civil rights movement after he witnessed how a black family was being treated when they planned on moving into a Brighton neighborhood.

About two miles from where we lived, there was a family the name of the Tollivers, Braveman recalled. When the neighbors found out the Tollivers were black, they tried to buy the house so that the Tollivers could not move in. For whatever reason, this bothered a 15-year-old kid.

Braveman decided to join Congress on Racial Equality and when he heard about the March on Washington early in the summer of 1963, he asked his parents if he could go and they approved.

He and others from Rochester packed onto four buses to make the day long trip to D.C.

There was a sense that the event was historic, Braveman said. I remembered getting off the bus and later in the day seeing what seemed like millions of people.

On the same caravan of buses travelling from Rochester to DC was Dr. Walter Cooper, although the two men did not know each other at the time.

Dr. Cooper was in his thirties in 1963 and unlike Braveman, Dr. Cooper was an established member of the Rochester civil rights community.

Dr. Cooper recalled that the FBI wanted the names and addresses of everyone making the trip to DC. He believes it was because many believed the march would become violent.

The group from Rochester refused to give that information because they knew the event would be peaceful and it was.

I looked at [the speech] in terms of the hope the future could bring, Dr. Cooper said. These are the dreams. How can we realize the dreams? That was my feeling.

Fifty years later, Dr. Cooper says the I Have A Dream speech is still very much relevant.

It's relevant because we have not achieved the dream, he said. In fact, in some areas it seems to be a nightmare. What the memory of the march does is it dictates a new mission and a new responsibility for this generation. They have to assess, in a very serious fashion, where the future is going to go for minorities in this country.

For Braveman, Dr. Kings speech changed his life.

After hearing the speech, Braveman decided that he would pursue a career in law and devote his life and work to civil rights litigation.

After the March on Washington, Dr. Cooper went on to found the Rochester chapter of the Urban League and also became the president of the local NAACP chapter.

 

 
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