This week is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington held Aug. 28, 1963. This event has special meaning to me. Maybe it's because my father did march with Dr. King, during the civil rights movement.
I still remember as a young man meeting Dr. Martin L. King, Sr.; it was my father who introduced him to me. I was so young I don't think I really appreciated the fact that this was Dr. King's father talking to me.
My mother-in-law worked for Ms. Coretta Scott King. I was once blessed to go to their house in Atlanta, Ga., years ago, although I never went in the house, because we talked with the portion of the family that was there on the steps.
When I was in school in Atlanta, we got to go to Ebenezer Baptist Church, and once spoke from behind the pulpit that I was told was the same as the one the father and son had spoken from. I have gone to the house that Dr. King was born in, and to the hotel where he died.
I still have the actual paper that I delivered on the day of his assassination, April 4, 1968, from my paper route.
I was blessed to meet and eat with one of Dr. King's right-hand men, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, in his hotel room. I have read several of his books, as well as read books about him. Like thousands of others I have gone to the Dr. Martin L. King Center, and his memorial tomb.
I understand all that and 50 cents is not enough to get me a cup of coffee.
But maybe it shows why it is personal to me.
It is hard to believe that so many changes have taken place in 50 years. They say the only thing that is constant is change. I know in my short life so far, electronics have constantly changed. When I first started driving, if you had an 8-track player and a C.B. radio, you were living large.
Then it went to cassette player, then CD player, now a DVD player, and I just heard on the news that some new cars will no longer have CD players, just a place to hook up your phone, because no one buys CDs anymore they said, they just download it from I-tunes. More important than all those electronic changes are the changes in our culture. Some of the changes were good and some of them were bad. Some things look like they changed, but are really the same.
The southern states were known for their in-your-face racism, but the northern states were always racist behind your back while smiling in your face. It makes you wonder about who is really for you, vs. someone just pretending.
I guess you find out who your real friends are when you are in trouble. Sometimes you hope you never have to find out, because you don't want that trouble. All the signs are down now, all over the U.S.A., but racism is still alive and well.
One of the reasons for the march on Washington 50 years ago was because a little boy from the Chicago, Ill., area went to visit his grandparents in Mississippi, and was beaten up, drowned, murdered and other things done to his body, because they did not think he belonged. Fifty years later another young man is shot and killed by someone who did not think he belonged.
I am sure there are arguments on both sides, but the fact is, so much has changed and yet remained the same.
There will be services all over the U.S.A, and in the Ohio Valley, this weekend and on the actual anniversary this Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 to remember the occasion. Yes, we have come a long way. I don't know if Dr. King saw an African-American president in less than 50 years in his mountain top vision, but we still have a long ways to go.
Thank God for the progress. Let me leave you with a portion of his speech: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
"I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brother.
"I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
Guest columnist Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.