I am so proud of my dad, Clifford Taylor Lee, Sr. Even at the age of 81, he was determined to be in attendance at the 2013 March on Washington. On August 28th, 1963, my dad attended the historic first March on Washington. Dad said that “nothing could have stopped me from attending in 1963 or 50 years later where I was one of several thousands who marched from the steps of Georgetown Law School to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.” Relying on the aid of a cane and a rolater, dad’s tenacity to complete the entirety of the 1.6 mile march inspired others to ignore the rain and to push on to complete the commemorative march.
In 1963, my dad was a student at Howard University School of Law. In those days, Howard was a hotbed of social and legal activism. He tells me that his call to action was greatly impacted by his many peers who were students from the deep south and who were intimately familiar with the civil rights movement. Many had been in the trenches and on the front lines of the movement of the civil rights battle in their home states. With them they brought to Howard specialized training, passion, and a wealth of civil rights knowledge. Upon graduation, he said, most students intended to return home better armed with new skills, advanced education, and more determined to continue the fight.
So, on Wednesday, August 28th, dad went to the March with a heavy heart knowing that many of the foot soldiers with whom he had been active in the 1960’s civil rights movement were no longer around and had never been given the proper respect due them. In addition to marching to keep the dream alive and passing the torch to a new generation of activists, dad was also motivated to honor those soldiers no longer with us but upon whose shoulders we all stood to get where we are today.
While at the March, Dad was interviewed by several news outlets and was featured on CBS Evening News. I was so proud of him when he said, “Dr. King’s dream has not been fully realized. We still have lots of work to do.” As the younger generation has been passed the torch, we must first hold the ground that others have worked so hard to achieve through the sacrifice of blood, sweat, and tears. We must address ongoing issues of employment, high incarceration, renewed voter suppression, providing a living wage, immigration, and equal rights for LGBT. All of us, regardless of our background, sexual orientation, and our ethnicity deserve a shot at the American dream.
I have hope for the future. With people like my dad, Clifford T. Lee Sr., and my young son, Clifford III, as inspiration, I know that we shall, indeed, overcome. But, as dad says, “the struggle continues…”
By: Taylor Lee
Taylor Lee lives in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Clifford Sr. is retired from the federal government and lives in SWDC.