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The president of the Prince George's County NAACP chapter shares how attending the 1963 March on Washington shaped his life's work, and how he's connecting his community to the struggles of the civil rights movement. Prince George's County reporter Zachary Kiesch has the story.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of a key moment in the civil rights movement, one Washington-area leader who was at the March on Washington is working to connect his community with the importance and struggles of that historic day.
“We didn't have the Internet or a cell phone, but we always got the word of what was going on in your home, and we always cheered for the underdog, and we knew we were the underdogs,” NAACP Prince George’s County, Md., Chapter President Bob Ross said.
Fifty years ago, Ross was a 19-year-old from Philadelphia.
“Even though we were in Philadelphia, we had boundaries that we didn’t cross, streets we didn’t cross, and that’s how we knew something needed changing,” he said.
The conditions most black Americans were living in at the time brought Ross and his mother to Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1963.
“We came by bus, and the first sight was the number of African-Americans that we saw,” he said. “It was just overwhelming. A lot of people like us.”
The profound impact of that day, of those experiences, has shaped his life's work.
“I guess I’ve been on a journey ever since that day,” Ross said.
Ross met with politicians, community organizers and residents Tuesday to harness the collective strength of the county to stir up excitement and participation for Saturday’s march. At 7 a.m. Saturday, Ross and County Executive Rushern Baker will meet the Prince George’s County delegation at the Washington Monument and march to the Lincoln Memorial as a group.
The goal is to use the day not only as a celebration, but as a launching pad for the work that still needs to be done.
“The dream is not complete,” he said.