BAKERSFIELD - While many in our nation's capital paused to mark the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech Wednesday, civil rights leaders in Bakersfield also reflected on that day, how far we've come, and the work that remains.
"My father and mother and I were sitting down watching "The Dream" speech," said Art Powell, the second president of the Bakersfield NAACP.
Powell says he was living in Los Angeles. He was 18 and had his eyes glued to the TV screen watching Dr. King's words move a nation.
"Every time I hear it, even on TV now, when I hear that "Free at last, free at last! Thank God almighty, I am free at last," it just sends chills through you," said Powell.
"When you hear that speech, something happens on the inside of you that just resonates greatness within you, that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve in this country," said President of the Bakersfield NAACP, Patrick Jackson.
But, Jackson says more road lies ahead. While there are no longer definitive race separations, there's still a silent stigma as an African American.
"A woman may clench their purse when they are on the elevator. A person may look at you a little more closely when you walk into a particular store. Not necessarily that they are saying anything racist, but the action," said Jackson.
It's why Jackson and others feel this speech has equal meaning now, even 50 years later. And, it's not only for African Americans. They say it's for anyone viewed as different, and they dream future generations embrace Dr. King's timeless message.
"I have to give it to our young people. They are starting to not spread that hatred. They are starting to see each other by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. Whether it's the gay marriage situation, whether it's black and white marrying, whether it's black and whites going to school together, that's the importance of the dream," said Powell.
Dr. Martin Luther King Junior was just 34 years old when he made the "I Have A Dream" speech.