'Let freedom ring:' Locals remember March on Washington

By Matt Porter

August 28, 2013 Updated Aug 29, 2013 at 12:02 AM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) When more than a quarter million people, mostly African Americans, gathered on the National Mall in 1963, Sharon Ball remembers watching it on television with amazement.

The then 13-year-old Ball was also uneasy while watching the mass of black faces because she had learned the fear whites had of large groups of black people.

"I remember thinking they were so brave. They could get killed," Ball said.

But the peaceful march ended up surprising her and her mother.

"My mother, particularly being very touched, being very emotional about it," she said.

The protest featured Martin Luther King Jr., who gave the famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Four years later, Fred Brooks, of Vestal, would march with King months before his death.

"Those of us who were there and the people with whom I spoke afterward knew we were in the presence of greatness," Brooks said.

At 29 years old, he remembers the Washington march proving King's ideology of non-violent resistance.

"You can be peaceful and you can take steps forwards to achieve what's important for the human race," Brooks said.

Standing on Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade in Binghamton, City Councilwoman Lea Webb said King's passion has been etched into history.

The promenade features a likeness of King as he gave the speech on the Lincoln Memorial.

"That is one of his strongest images that he tried to do is to call people to action to really make change," Webb said.

She said her own path to leadership only comes on the heels of the Civil Rights leaders of the past.

"I stand on their shoulders," Webb said. "The shoulders of Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, Shirley Chisholm, Malcolm X."

On Wednesday in Washington, presidents and citizens stood together to remember the work done by the leaders of the past.