Merlene Davis: Bus trip planned to celebrate 50th anniversary of March on Washington

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, featuring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his "I Have a Dream" speech, took place long before Gina DeArth and Astarré Gudino were born.

But that has not dulled the passion of these two young women who are trying to take a group from the Bluegrass to Washington for the 50th anniversary of the march.

"This is not a commemoration," DeArth said. "It is a continuation. It is to continue Dr. King's dream."

A national coalition of some two dozen civil and human rights groups has planned the event, which some say has grown in intensity since the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Five groups took part in the original march, including the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Urban League. This year, the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, which was founded in 1991, and the National Council of Churches, have joined.

DeArth coordinated Lexington's "Justice for Trayvon" rally in July and it was during that rally that people asked her to coordinate a trip to Washington.

DeArth contacted NAN and chartered a bus. NAN had organized the Trayvon rallies across the nation and sent out notices about the march.

"When I was angry with the verdict, I contacted someone at NAN," DeArth said. "They said turn your anger into action. Every person can feel anger, just put it into action for a collective force for justice."

Gudino, community relations coordinator for the Lexington Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, said she is going as a stand-in for her 57-year-old father who lives in Paducah and can't get off from work.

The original march "was so important to him," she said. "He talks about it all the time. He remembers going to school when it was over and having his face forced into a fountain. It means so much to him that I'm going to be there."

Gudino said she is frustrated with the lack of action against persistent problems with employment and housing, most of which existed a half century ago.

"A lot of people feel like we have talked it to death and others say we haven't talked enough," she said. "It is time to come together on one accord and discuss it again. There are still things that need to be done.

"The Trayvon Martin verdict awakened a lot of passion," she said.

Although the march's anniversary will be celebrated over seven days, culminating with activities on the anniversary date of Aug. 28, the group from Lexington will attend Aug. 24 activities in which groups will gather at the Lincoln Memorial and march to the MLK memorial.

Speakers will include Martin Luther King III, Sharpton, Congressman John Lewis — the only one of the six original leaders still living — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and family members of Martin and Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old boy killed in Mississippi in 1955 for reportedly flirting with a white woman.

A seat on the Ventourus, Ltd., chartered bus is $99 and includes a round trip to Washington, as well as to the march site on Saturday.

Gudino said there is also a charge of $89 plus tax each night for a two-night stay at the Clarion Hotel in College Park, Md.

Reservations must be made by Aug. 9. If there are not enough people, the bus will be canceled.

"I think Lexington is big enough to do this," Gudino said.

DeArth agreed.

"We want the dream," she said. "We still have a lot of work to do."


The Lexington Fayette County Human Rights Commission is helping to coordinate a bus trip from Lexington to Washington, D.C. for the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

When: Aug. 23-25.

Where: The bus will board at the Helix Garage, 150 E. Main St.

Cost: $99 per seat. Checks or money orders only, made out to Ventourus, Ltd; $89 plus tax each night for two nights at the Clarion Hotel. Deadline is Aug. 9.

Contact: Gina DeArth at, or (330) 978-0884; or Astarre Gudino at, or (270) 201 -6505.