March on Washington 1

Participants of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on 26 August 2023.


They stood with signs, flags, children with their parents and elders, many of whom remembered the day back in August 1963 when Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr and his I have a dream” speech became icons in the push for justice and peace. Some carried photos taken 60 years ago.

Then and now, the people reaffirmed that their fight for justice and peace that is not over.

World Council of Churches (WCC) president from North America Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith personally brought greetings to the crowd from the WCC, and she reflected on the power of faith, resiliency, and resolve.

Yes, we have marched nationally and globally and we are still marching!” she said. Let us remember we must always march forward, for to do otherwise is to give in to death which we can never do!”

Walker-Smith added: Let us be clear that we are a global and beautiful people seeking the embodiment of reparatory justice and God-given freedoms, even as we seek to find new ways to love one another having learned from our past and moving forward in faith, by faith and grace.”

March on Washington

World Council of Churches president from North America Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith delivering the greetings to the participants of the demonstration from the WCC.


Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA president and general secretary, asked those gathered: when are we going to say enough is enough?

Crazily, it is unsafe to be Black and Brown anywhere, anytime in America,” she said. This is an all-out war against us.”

The same day as the March on Washington, a gunman took the lives of three people of African descent in Jacksonville, Florida at a local store, a hate-based attack originally intended for Edward Waters University, a campus related to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic Black church and a WCC member church.

Its a struggle everyday for people to maintain their personhood, noted McKenzie. People feel they have a right to revoke our rights—basic rights—all of them making a mockery out of democracy,” said McKenzie. This is the hour to keep believing that justice is still possible even when democracy is on life support.”

This is the time, McKenzie urged. We must have the will to lead and not just react,” she said. We must reset the moral compass of our nations. Now is the time. Now is the hour. The future is in your hands.”

Bishop Charley Hames Jr, presiding bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, reflected that the March on Washington in 1963 was not really a singular moment but a catalyst for change reverberating through generations.

As we stand here today, we recognize that the fight for equality, justice, and civil rights is not over,” Hames said. We must carry the torch they lit and continue their mission to create a truly inclusive and equitable society.”

The March on Washington 60 years ago was a powerful statement against racial injustice, acknowledged Hames. They demonstrated the power of the collective action and the strength of unity,” he said. The March on Washington reminds us that we must address all forms of systemic oppression and discrimination.”

Today, we still witness injustices that demand our attention and action, Hames added. We must challenge prejudice and discrimination where we encounter them,” he said. We must amplify the voices of the marginalized communities.”

Marching is still necessary, Hames urged, otherwise: My grandson will be seen as a weapon and not as a child of God.”

Bishop Talbert Wesley Swan II from the Church of God in Christ reflected that we live in strange times. We are here to say you cannot erase us,” he said. Were not going anywhere.”

March must continue

On 4 July, 1968, Dr Martin Luther King Jr should have entered the Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden to preach at the opening service of the World Council of Churches (WCC) 4th Assembly.

But King was assassinated on 4 April of that same year. On the 75th anniversary of WCC, we especially remember these ecumenical moments of profound lament still shape our ecumenical commitment to justice and peace today.

Rev. Dr W. Franklyn Richardson, chair of the National Action Network,  a  primary hosting organization of the March on Washington, said the march was not merely a march of reflection but a march of projecting into the future.

Richardson is also a former member of the WCC central committee. We will not let the clock turn back,” he said. Weve come through great difficulties and great hardships.”

Richardson noted that the nation was built on the backs of African-Americans and African people. Today we come to serve notice that we are determined to collect what we invested—what our foremothers and forefathers deposited in this nation. Therefore we are all here because we all have an investment in this nation turning and living up to its possibilities.”

In a letter to all those gathered, WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay agreed with Richardson that this is not the first wave.

Today we see far because we stand on the shoulders of the giants of 1963,” Pillay wrote. The march must continue. I exhort you, sisters and brothers, to make sure that we are not the last wave,” he urged. The demands must be taken to every nook and cranny of the earth!”

Greetings of the World Council of Churches general secretary on the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

WCC general secretary, with USA churches, explores how to strengthen relationships (WCC news release, 22 July 2023)