HOUSTON - It's been 50 years since civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous March on Washington that culminated with the "I Have a Dream" speech.
Houston freedom riders filled a bus headed for Washington, D.C. Thursday morning. About 54 people are making the trip and the youngest rider is 11 years old.
The Houston Area Urban League and the NAACP has helped to organize and support several groups to make the trip this weekend.
"The National Urban League, along with the NAACP, are trying to get as many folks to Washington," said Judson Robinson, president of the Houston Area Urban League. "We not only need to reflect on the history, but to talk about the future of the civil rights movement."
The theme for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is "national action to realize a dream."
On August 28, 1963, King gave his famous speech that became the driving force during the struggle for civil right in the 60s.
Craig Oettinger, a community leader who is making the trip from Houston, said this celebration brings back many memories because he was there at the original march and stood next to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Before stepping on the bus, 11-year-old Devonte Thomas held up a sign that is a part of history because Oettinger held the same sign in his hands 50 years ago when he marched in Washington.
"I marched 50 years ago with 250,000 other people and carried this sign," said Oettinger. "This is the official button. I was 18 when I marched. It was a hot humid day, and it was like preaching to the choir.
Oettinger said he was transformed by Dr. King's words, "I have a dream."
"I was there to hear Dr. King's speech," said Oettinger. "I was 18 years old, and transformed by not only his words, but his actions. He wasn't just a dreamer, he was a visionary with a plan of action. I participated in the sit-ins and the rallies. A lot has changed, but there is still a lot of work to be done, and it's up to the next generation to continue the legacy."
"He's really inspired me to become a great leader," said fifth grader Devontae Thomas.
The bus trip will take about 25 hours, but the riders said it will be well worth it.
Another bus is scheduled to leave Houston Friday morning.
Once they arrive, there will be rallies, panel discussions, and other events, including speeches by President Barak Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and former President Jimmy Carter.
The week of festivities is all being conducted by the children of Dr. King.
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