'I'm going . . . to create a new day for my children'

''I'm riding the 'Freedom Train' to Washington,'' says Veda Wright. She plans to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom this Saturday - the 1983 version of the March on Washington, originally held Aug. 28, 1963.

''I'm going because I want to create a new day for my children. I need a regular job, full-time steady employment that would keep me more than one step ahead of bill collectors.''

A working mother holding down a temporary job as coordinator of the Massachusetts 20th Anniversary Mobilization, Mrs. Wright is working with a statewide committee headed by State Rep. Saundra Graham (D) of Cambridge to plan the state's role in the march.

The stated goals of the march are to:

* Organize a permanent Coalition of Conscience.

* Seek full employment of all Americans through affirmative action, programs to prevent plant closings, and assurances that local people are hired when new businesses open.

* Seek peace in a world family of nations.

* Seek freedom through enforcement of civil rights laws, both national and state; through increased voter registration; and through efforts to stop crime.

''As a teen-ager in 1963 I didn't participate in the first march,'' Mrs. Wright says. ''But I do remember the excitement of the day, especially Dr. [ Martin Luther] King and his 'dream' speech.''

Twenty years ago, local blacks - joining with liberal whites, labor leaders, and philanthropists - flocked to the nation's capital demanding access (basically for Southern blacks) to jobs, public accommodations, and voting rights. They answered the call of black labor leader A.Phillip Randolph and the heads of seven national black civil rights organizations.

In that day, local blacks cherished Boston as the ''Cradle of Liberty,'' as the home of President John F. Kennedy, as a terminus of the underground railroad.

And white Bostonians traveled South by bus and train to fill the ranks of freedom marches in places like Selma, Ala., and to strengthen sit-ins at segregated lunch counters.

Boston was sold on this year's 20th anniversary march by US Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy of Washington, D.C.; Asia Bennett, executive secretary of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC); and Martin Luther King III, son of Dr. King, at a public meeting and a series of community meetings earlier this summer. Massachusetts Gov. -Michael S. Dukakis has declared Aug. 23-28 a ''week of remembrance.''

But many Boston blacks echo Mrs. Wright. ''Black people are doing no better today than they were 20 years ago,'' says George Guscott. ''Our teen-agers need the most - jobs, better education in public schools, and safety in all city communities.'' Mr. Guscott attended the first march. He's active in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

''And I'm going again this year because I think we in Boston need this demonstration more than we did 20 years ago.''

''Boston feels most dramatically the stress on today's economically deprived people - the single-parent family, unemployed youth, black and white; the functionally illiterate adult,'' says Ricardo A. Millett, director of Boston University's Martin Luther King Jr. Center. ''This nation is making technological advances, but is missing in improving human resources.''

''I'm going to the March on Washington because these issues will be addressed there.''

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center recently produced a study on race relations in Boston. The 20 authors of the journal - drawn from the city's political, social, religious, educational, and economic fields - found a city of turfs, ''balkanized'' communities, and subtle prejudices.

Today Mrs. Wright is coordinating the Massachusetts phase of the action from a black church, the Union United Methodist Church, in Boston's South End. Working with her very closely are the AFSC, a number of church organizations both black and white, Boston NOW (National Organization for Women), and various unions.

Boston is the starting point of one of three Freedom Trains - others are from New Orleans and Miami - bringing people to Washington for the march. The Boston train is virtually booked to its 1,000-passenger capacity.

At least 35 buses will start from various parts of Boston: the downtown Boston Common and from neighborhoods throughout the city. And at least 30 buses from other sections of the state also will head for Washington Friday night.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.