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Yorktown Resident Recalls Marching For Civil Rights On 50th Anniversary

Ken Brown, of Yorktown, with his daughter, Maryanne Kashian, of Yonkers.
Ken Brown, of Yorktown, with his daughter, Maryanne Kashian, of Yonkers. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryanne Kashian

YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- The 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 civil rights march to Washington, D.C. holds personal significance for one Yorktown resident.

Ken Brown recalls marching with his family and friends 50 years ago Wednesday, in protest against the mistreatment of African-Americans.

"I was there, me, a 21 year-old white kid. Why were we on this voyage? It is complicated but perhaps best explained by our parents example and our religious beliefs," he said.

Brown, 71, said he was raised to believe all people are equal, and was frustrated with the lack of integration in his childhood neighborhood of Southeast Yonkers. Furthermore, he cared for the black people he knew.

"My school, PS 11, had one African American girl. The oil-man was black, as was the postman, and for a short time we had a black housekeeper, Georgia, when our mother needed help," he said. :It is also true that our early public school education taught tolerance as well as good citizenship."

The journey to the march was not easy for Brown and his group. The nine, all packed into one car, were driven off the road when another motorist saw their protest signs. The collision with the median wrecked their car.

The group, along with many others, walked the last miles to the capitol.

"It was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. Newspaper reports said that 250,000 to 300,000 people, maybe more, attended, at least one quarter of whom were white. We sang, chanted “We shall Overcome” and marched together, white hand in black hand," he said.

After witnessing Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous, "I Have A Dream," speech, Brown and his family came back to a repaired car, free of charge - which he has chalked up to the generosity of "brotherhood."

"Let us now on this important anniversary dedicate ourselves to embrace racial brotherhood with all our hearts, keeping in mind what Dr. King said about freedom: “No one is free until we all are free," he said.

Brown lives in Yorktown with his wife, Gerarda, and has 34 grandchildren.

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