Witnessing history, Bryant recalls King’s most famous speech

Trinity Williams

By Trinity Williams and Akhil Katuri

The year was 1963 and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial to an estimated crowd of 250,0000, including the secretary to the assistant principals Marilyn Bryant.

As a young girl, Bryant made the trip to Washington D.C. with her family to see King deliver his speech during the March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom.  

it was overwhelming, so beautiful, very peaceful, and calming and felt like we were just one unit instead of many people in one,”

— secretary Marilyn Bryant

“It’s been quite some time my family has always been involved in civil rights because they were born and raised in the civil rights and my great grandmother was a free slave so when we arrived in New York things were different you know more freedom,” Bryant said. “But when Martin Luther King came aboard and I was really excited so my aunt and uncle decided to take a trip to Washington D.C. and then took myself and my sister and some other cousins. It was one of the most exciting times that I can recall. It’s been quite some time; it was overwhelming, so beautiful, very peaceful, and calming and felt like we were just one unit instead of many people in one. I got older I realize how important the day was and how it affected me. I’m going for my life going forward making sure people are treated equally, not because of race, or color, or creed.”

Assassinated in 1968, Bryant says things would be different if King’s life wasn’t cut short at the age of 39.  

“I think it would be a better place in reference to being as a unity and respecting all people for no matter what race they are, what ethnic group they come from, all the background,” Bryant said. “But there’s such a division right now, and there’s so many so much hurtful things going on in the world today, we really didn’t need someone like MLK again to bring us all together as one unit.”

However, the message delivered by King in 1963 has led Bryant to live her life open minded to all groups of people, no matter what.

But there’s such a division right now, and there’s so many so much hurtful things going on in the world today, we really didn’t need someone like MLK again to bring us all together as one unit,”

— Bryant

“Well it made me realize that it didn’t make a different color skin or what nationality anyone was that I should treat them equally fair,” Bryant said. “I don’t look at color. I look at the person. I don’t hate a group of people that I may not, that I may not like you because of how you treat me, but I would not say I’m going to be prejudiced towards a group of people, that’s wrong on every level and that’s how I raise my kids treat each other as a way you wanna be treated”

Seeing the speech in person is something that brought Bryant hope. 

“Before we left it was quiet, it was like we were at a church or synagogue in the words, which is like melting into our bodies and soul, and he just felt that he was speaking to you as an individual and not as a group,” Bryant said. “I think everybody takes something away differently. I took away that there was hope, that dreams can become true, that here is a man who is a common man who had a purpose in life and he shared it, so I know that there’s hope and I know this is the faith and I know that we can get together as one. I have a decision to make something that’s positive for the world, and not try to think of I, and let’s think about we as a team”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on January 15, 2021.