Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

E. Marie Swan
In the summer of 1963, E. Marie Swan applied to work for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

"Growing up in the all-black community of Wilmington, N.C. I experienced firsthand what segregation was about," she said in a commentary in The San Diego Union-Tribune in January 2003. "I resolved that if I ever had the opportunity, I would make a difference in the way things were. The only problem was that I was very hotheaded and militant."

Swan explained that after listening to her rant and rave during the job interview about how she could change her community, Dr. King told her that she was too angry to be part of his movement. 

"He told me there was too much anger and hatred inside of me," she recalled. "This hurt, but it got my attention."

After a restless night of self-reflection, she decided to adopt a more peaceable attitude. She immersed herself in Dr. King's theory of nonviolence.

"The March on Washington [August 28, 1963] doesn't seem that long ago," she wrote. "Yes, I was there. The largest group of kids there was from Wilmington. Yes -- I eventually became their leader and, yes -- I continue to this day to be influenced and inspired by Dr. King." 

Mrs. Swan eventually moved to Oceanside, Calif., home of the  U.S. Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, and a traditionally politically conservative town. She went on to be elected president of the Oceanside Pacific Kiwanis Club and a recipient of Oceanside's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Achievement Award in 2000. 

I came to know her as a reporter in January 2009 through a librarian at the Oceanside Public Library. She wanted me to share Mrs. Swan's story and invite the community to visit a display of Swan's personal memorabilia from her civil rights days which she generously loaned in celebration of President Obama's inauguration.  

To read the complete article published in The San Diego Union-Tribune/Today's Local News, click here.