Fifty years ago, African American churches mobilized hundreds of thousands of people for the March on Washington. Today, local congregations are praying to generate a similar turnout by appealing to social justice.
The Rev. Reginald M. Green is singing "Oh Freedom," which later became an anthem during the 1963 March on Washington. Green was one of the original "Freedom Riders" who tried to integrate whites-only transportation in 1961, for which he was jailed and beaten in Mississippi.
The retired pastor serves on the Council of Local Churches, and is organizing this year's March. He says sermons heard across hundreds of churches this Sunday will focus on attending the March to fight for social justice.
Pastor Ronald Braxton, with the Metropolitan AME Church — founded 175 years ago — alluded to one of its first members, a freed slave woman, and what she would see were she alive today.
"She would have to declare she is not yet free," says Braxton. "She has no voting rights in the District of Columbia. She would be the witness to a murder of a young boy walking home. She would see the voting act virtually nullified."
It's a sentiment shared by Imam Mahdy Bray. "I still have worry about driving while black, and flying while Muslim," he says. "So we still have a lot of work to do."
Pastor Kemi Onanuga of Silver Spring explains why African churches will pray and march: "When things happen here in America, the ripple effects are felt beyond the borders of America."
Rev. Franklin Richardson said this March, just as the first one, ignited worldwide hope that justice prevails.
"Apartheid was caught in that spirit, the Wall dropping in Berlin was caught in that spirit, and it continues even in Egypt today and all over the world," he says. "People are recognizing that freedom is the most important agenda."