The Anniston pastor and civil rights leader said it was King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, spoken during the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, that made him want to become a minister.
“After I saw him I knew what I wanted to do,” Rimpsey said. “I wanted my whole life to be about showing what love can do.”
Rimpsey said it’s his hope young people in Calhoun County can experience King’s dream of racial equality this weekend too, as several organizations come together to honor the 50th anniversary of the historic march in Washington D.C. Through the local Calhoun County chapter of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization led by Rev. Al Sharpton, Rimpsey helped organize a group of about 50 people to ride a charter bus from Anniston to Washington on Friday to experience this weekend’s march recreation.
“If Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today, he wouldn’t be satisfied,” said Alabama state Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, prior to making the bus trip to Washington on Friday. “We’re moving backwards instead of forwards.”
Boyd, also a member of the Calhoun County chapter of the network, said this weekend’s march isn’t just about commemorating the events that took place 50 years ago, when 250,000 people marched in the nation’s capital for equal rights. She said recent events — such as the Supreme Court’s striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman under Florida’s “stand your ground” gun law – show King’s dream of racial equality still has not been fully realized.
While Rimpsey, Boyd and others making the trip Friday afternoon, including Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory, recalled their involvement in the 1960s civil rights movement, a lot of the younger bus passengers said they were using this weekend’s trip as a learning opportunity.
Jamiesha Johnson, 16, of Jacksonville, laughed when admitting she didn’t know a lot about the original March on Washington.
“It’s a good chance to learn,” she said. “This is kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.”
Kayaires Billingsley, 19, of Anniston, said sometimes she feels Americans don’t care about making a change.
“I think this weekend is to make people realize we do want change,” said Billingsley, who is marching for women’s rights and better job opportunities. “We do want to make a difference.”
Gadsden State student Shacoria Ramsey, 19, said growing up she rarely heard about the civil rights movement while in school.
“Between fourth and 10th grade we talked about it twice,” said Ramsey, who attended Alexandria Elementary and High schools. “For me this is a great chance to take part in something and learn about black history.”
Boyd said it’s important for a younger generation to be active participants in standing for equal rights, because the older generation won’t be around forever.
“Most of us aren’t going to be here in 50 years,” Boyd said. “That’s why we need our young people to experience this, so they can carry this on at the 100th anniversary.”
Rimpsey said the charter bus as well as hotel accommodations and food for the weekend trip were provided by local and national leadership in the Action Network. The bus riders are scheduled to march on Washington today and will return home Sunday evening.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.