INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.- On Wednesday, inside IPS School 27, near the park where Robert Kennedy’s speech announcing the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. was given, Hoosiers came together to honor that moment in history.
Local leaders and dignitaries, including Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett, Governor Holcomb, along with senators and members of Congress, gathered to remember and honor the life of King.
And scattered throughout the crowd were people who had been there that night. Now, fifty years later, they’re reflecting on what has happened since and the work that is still left to do.
Almost nobody who showed up at the park that night to hear Robert Kennedy speak had any idea that King had been killed. In that moment, they became witnesses to history. It is a moment that five decades later still gives them perspective on what’s happening today.
“It’s still very real and vivid,” said Theresa Lubbers, who was at Kennedy’s speech. She was only 16 that night.
Indianapolis resident Billie Breaux was also there, just 31 years old. Two women, who on Wednesday were back near the same spot, at almost the same moment that famous speech was given.
Breaux remembers that moment, and sees the parallels between then and now.
“We still have that same division,” said Breaux, “and many of the people who should know better, don’t apparently.”
On that night, fifty years ago, as so many cities across America saw riots, there was only calm across Indianapolis. Peace, coming from what Kennedy’s words did that night.
“[His words] took a crowd that felt a great sense of despair, and helped them think about a better time and what they could still do to contribute,” said Lubbers.
Many say progress has happened, but not nearly enough; and that what America needed then, is still what it needs now.
“We need love, peace and compassion,” said Breaux, “those things are the same things that we need today.”
Just two months after that speech, Kennedy was shot to death during a campaign stop. Wednesday evening’s event also featured a panel discussion about King’s legacy, and what needs to be done to continue his fight for equality.