Sarah Hack is a 14-year-old Woodford County High School student worried about racial justice in the wake of Trayvon Martin's shooting, while Jackie Bass worked to desegregate Louisville's schools in the 1970s.
From either end of age and experience, they went to Washington, D.C., this weekend and came home to Kentucky similarly inspired.
"It was really cool," said Hack, who attended this weekend's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with her grandparents, Donna and Chartorn Renfrow. "I thought it was cool to see how many people care about making a difference."
Bass had watched Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech on TV when she was 15, and on Saturday watched his son, Martin Luther King III speak to another march of thousands of people.
"Anytime you see that, your heart is fulfilled — everyone is doing and saying and thinking toward the same goal," she said. "It's overwhelming, it's wonderful."
Hack and Bass went to Washington on a bus trip organized by Gina DeArth and Astarre Gudino of the Lexington Fayette Human Rights Commission, who were partly inspired by George Zimmerman's acquittal in the Martin shooting, but also by the same issues in housing and employment that have remained since 1963.
Thirty-three people signed up to ride the bus and took part in a full day of activities, including what they estimated to be an eight-mile march to the Washington Mall.
"My feet couldn't take the eight miles, but I did it because that's not as much as they had to bear in the past," said participant Mary Hook of Lexington.
Cliffonia O'Neal of Jeffersonville, Ind., also remembers watching the first March as a small child, and figured this would be "my final large participation in a big civil rights demonstration."
O'Neal is a longtime member of the NAACP, and came back inspired to get more people involved in today's civil rights battles.
"I feel as if the country is going backwards, and more people need to be involved, especially young people," she said.
Angelique Bell, a nonprofit consultant in Lexington, said her favorite speaker was the Rev. Al Sharpton.
"He made comparisons about the same issues that people were marching about in 1963 and today. It's a flat economy for the majority of Americans, but a tiny minority is managing to make bigger profits than ever before," Bell said.
Despite somber topics, the whole mood on the Mall was very upbeat, Bell said.
"People were striking up conversations with each other," she said. "It was a very cordial crowd with good intentions."
Robert and Katherine Murray of Lexington traveled to Washington for both inaugurations of President Barack Obama, and knew they couldn't miss this anniversary.
"It's almost a religious experience," he said. "We got so inspired by all the speakers, by the crowd and the people. It's an inspiration to help continue Dr. King's work, and make sure the dream stays alive and becomes a reality."
If you go
Lexington will have a commemoration of the Aug. 28, 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech on Wednesday.
"Can We Celebrate: Are We Free?" will start at 6:10 p.m. at the courthouse square on Limestone. A video of Martin Luther King's speech will be shown, followed by prayers from several denominations, singing and speakers.
Jo-Juana Greene, one of the event organizers, said the event will end with action items, and people can volunteer to work on problems such as poverty and the achievement gap in schools.
In case of rain, the event will be held in the Farish Theater of the downtown Lexington Public Library.
The Lexington chapter of the NAACP and the Kentucky Council on Peace and Justice are organizing the event. For more information, contact Richard Mitchell at (859) 327-6277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At 9 p.m. Tuesday, KET will air The March, a documentary that looks at the day in 1963 where Martin Luther King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech and the march almost didn't happen.
In addition to the broadcast of The March, PBS will honor the 50th anniversary with a full week of special online programming and events. PBS Black Culture Connection website will unveil The March @50, a new web series that asks if America has delivered on the original demands of the marchers for jobs and freedom.
PBS member stations, including KET, will be sparking community engagement with Memories of the March, a series of video vignettes featuring first-person accounts from those who were present at the event or whose lives were impacted by the March.
In KET's two vignettes, host Renee Shaw sits down with former state senator Georgia Davis Powers, the first woman and the first African American elected to Kentucky's state senate, and with Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP, who participated in the March on Washington in 1963. KET's vignettes, in addition to those from other PBS stations, will be available to watch online at Pbs.org/black-culture/home.
Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford