Valrico woman present during Dr. MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech remembers 50 years later

VALRICO, Fla. - Valrico resident Althea Lee will never forget that day in 1963.

It was August 28, and she sat at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., listening to a man she had heard of before, speak before a crowd of a quarter-million.

"When he started the 'I Have A Dream' speech, there was absolute silence.  I think we all absorbed it.  It was an injection of faith," she remembers.

"And it was just as if we all were dusted by an angel, and he just kept on going."

Lee was in her 20's, living as a college student in New York City at the time, and made the trip down to Washington to join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

But she didn't quite have a civil rights goal on her mind.

"As I said, we had an agenda.  Our agenda was to meet up with our friends and have a good time.  That disappeared," she says when she heard the reverend speak.

She says the crowd was peaceful, and indeed it was.  There are no recorded arrests made that day related to the march.

"You know, if you were hungry, somebody gave you a sandwich.  If you were thirsty, someone poured water on your head.  It was just a love-fest." Lee says.

An immigrant herself, who came with her parents from Trinidad & Tobago, her mother and father were staunch unionists who joined the Civil Rights Movement as a matter of principle for equality.

But 50 years later, as she reflects, she feels the country is losing its touch.

"You are acutely aware of who you are, and how other people view you, and that is a burden," she says.

She still has faith the country can bind itself together.

If you ask her if she could be there as part of the speech and march's 50th anniversary, she'll tell you "no."

"I've been there and done that," she says with a wistfully proud smile.

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