Gwen Day-Fuller’s greatest memory is attending the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lincoln Memorial.
On the sultry morning of Aug. 28, 1963, Day-Fuller went to the speech with her mother, Lucille Peatross-Day, and her aunt, Mary Stokes. The then 19-year-old was on her summer break from Hampton University, and she and her family were among 250,000 people who disregarded widespread warnings that there would be riots at the now-fabled March on Washington.
Day-Fuller, 75, is the daughter of Ferdinand Day, who served as the first African American on the Alexandria School Board. She is a retired elementary school teacher and lives in the Alexandria house her parents bought in the early 1970s. Her father attended the speech separately, and met up with the family afterward.
This week, ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, we asked Day-Fuller about her experience all those years ago.
ALXnow: What stands out in your memory of that day, Aug. 28, 1963?
Day-Fuller: It was a very, very hot day, in August. And the crowd was immense. I mean, you were shoulder-to-shoulder and there had been a lot of discussion prior to the speech about how there would be riots, there would be people fighting. They anticipated a lot of problems. It was all on the news and everything. Well, the exact opposite happened because you could hear a pin drop out there. That was the thing that was so kind of eerie that I remember. People just walked along arms together. You know, it was just a very peaceful, kind atmosphere.
ALXnow: You and your parents and your aunt still attended the speech despite those warnings.
Day-Fuller: We just were so inspired by Dr. King and everything that he stood for at that time. Also, it was almost like what could be worse than what we were living through already? And to think that somebody could come and have an impact upon the nation, that it might lead to a positive change. I mean, it’s like my dad, who went to Atlanta to Dr. King’s funeral. He just said that he had to go. That’s how, you know, we were just so grabbed by Dr. King as a man and over what he had done so far and what he was trying to do.
ALXnow: Where did you watch the speech?
Day-Fuller: I was right near the Reflecting Pond. That’s where people were all around just trying to cool off. And that’s where we saw celebrities just walking along the way, like I remember seeing Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte. We also watched Roy Wilkins [former executive secretary of the NAACP] speak.
ALXnow: How long were you out that day?
Day-Fuller: A long time. I remember everyone wanted to leave early to try to beat the crowds and be sure to not miss the bus. So, it took awhile for him to come on to actually make the speech, and I remember the heat, it was so hot. But there were no issues, not one. I don’t remember anything being that silent in my life. And there he was, he appeared onstage, and to think that you would get a glimpse of him was just amazing.
ALXnow: What effect did the speech have on you at the time?
Day-Fuller: It was like my hairs were standing on-end. It was just amazing. I had heard him speak on TV and on the radio, but to be right there. I mean, I had no idea then that the speech would get the prominence it would. All I knew was I was in the midst of somebody extraordinary… It just gave you hope. It made you feel like maybe this is actually going to come to an end — what we’ve been experiencing in this country — and maybe now things will change, maybe there is hope for change.
City of Alexandria facilities will be closed in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20.
All public offices will be closed, parking restrictions will be eased and trash will not be collected.
Here is the city’s full list of openings and closures for Monday:
Resource Recovery: Residential refuse and recycling will not be collected on Monday, January 20, and collection services will be delayed by one day that week. The Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collections Drop-off Center (3224 Colvin St.) will also be closed.
Animal Shelter: The Vola Lawson Animal Shelter will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with animal visitation beginning at noon.
Health Department: Alexandria Health Department services at 4480 King St. and at the Flora Krause Casey Health Center (1200 N. Howard St.) will be closed. The Teen Wellness Center (3330 King St.) will also be closed.
Historic Alexandria: All Historic Alexandria facilities will be closed with the exception of the Alexandria History Museum at The Lyceum (201 S. Washington St.), which will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hotlines: All emergency hotlines will be fully operational, including the child protective services hotline at 703.746.5800; the domestic violence hotline at 703-746-4911; the emergency services for mental health or substance abuse crisis hotline at 703-746-3401; the adult protective services hotline at 1-888-832-3858 and the sexual assault hotline at 703-683-7273.
Libraries: All Alexandria Library branches will be closed on Monday, January 20. The Alexandria Law Library (520 King St.) will be closed on Friday, January 17, and Monday, January 20.
Parking: The Alexandria Police Department will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions at metered spaces, residential permit parking districts and other areas with signed parking time limits.
Impound Lot: The City’s Impound Facility (5249 Eisenhower Ave.) will be closed.
Recreation, Nature and Art Centers: Chinquapin Park Recreation Center & Aquatics Facility will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Charles Houston and Patrick Henry Recreation Centers will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and the Torpedo Factory Art Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All other City recreation and nature centers will be closed.
Schools: All Alexandria City Public Schools and administrative offices will be closed.
State Offices: The Alexandria Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Alexandria Circuit Court, Alexandria General District Court and Alexandria Juvenile Court and Domestic Relations District Court (520 King St.), will be closed. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Office (2681 Mill Road) will also be closed.
Transit: The Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) bus service will operate on a Saturday schedule. The free King Street Trolley will run during its regular operating hours, every 10 to 15 minutes, from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., between the King Street Metro Station and waterfront.
Photo via Pixabay
Whole Foods Donating to Local Nonprofit — “Now through the June 1, 2020, you can support The Child & Family Network Centers (CFNC) in Alexandria when you bring your own bag at Whole Foods at 1700 Duke Street. By bringing your own bag, you’ll save on the five-cent bag fee, which will automatically be donated to CFNC.” [Zebra]
Art Program for Residents in Recovery — “This fall, the Alexandria Residential Treatment Center (ARTC) partnered with Heard, a local nonprofit, to offer art workshops for individuals in recovery. An Alexandria-based creative arts initiative, Heard partners with nonprofits and local governments to provide marginalized and at-risk adults the opportunity to be heard through art and creativity with workshops in creative writing, visual arts, poetry, dance, etiquette and improvisation.” [City of Alexandria]
Interview With Alexandria’s Celebrity Salon Owner — “Picture this: Monte Durham, the debonair fashion director of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, strolls through Old Town Alexandria, his adopted home. Folks pass him on the street, and his keen eye for a chic coiffure assesses every ‘do. Finally, he spots his subject. ‘You need to come into my shop,’ he says in his charming drawl.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Reminder: MLK Commemoration Tonight — “The City of Alexandria planning to host a commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. [on] Wednesday, Jan. 15. The ceremony is scheduled for 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Beth El Hebrew Congregation (3850 Seminary Road).” [ALXnow]