Telisia Perry, 16, of Northeast Washington, had not been born when the historic 1963 March on Washington occurred. But, Perry, who attends private school and lives in a quiet middle-class neighborhood, said she considers herself a beneficiary of the civil rights movement and will join in the second civil rights March on Washington Saturday at the Mall.
"I'm marching because I care about what Martin Luther King has done for me, my people and the world. The struggle continues," said Perry, a junior at the Notre Dame Academy.
Perry said her four sisters and brothers also plan to march, and she said she is considering creating a placard declaring "Equality is Worth Fighting For."
This year's march, sponsored by the Coalition of Conscience, a collection of civil rights, hispanic, environmental and women's rights organizations, has a theme that has included controversial and disparate issues that have sparked division among the groups that sponsored the last march.
Unlike the last march, which focused mainly on civil rights for blacks, the theme this year is "Jobs, Peace and Freedom."
While Perry and others are enthusiastic about the event, local march organizers said most Washington residents have yet to show much excitement about the event, and some residents said that while they had heard a march would occur, they did not know where or when.
"I've been to so many marches it's ridiculous," said Charles Richardson, 50, of Northeast, who said he has a track record of civil rights activism and now works as a taxi driver.
"It's hard to get excited about yet another march," he said. "What will it accomplish this time? There were a lot of things that were done before the first march that set the groundwork and built momentum. That's not the case this time. They're going to march, sing songs and damn Reagan, then they're going to get in their cars and go back home."
Yet, Richardson said he would join in "to see it for myself."
Several persons interviewed last week said they lacked details about the march and its purpose.
Radio stations with predominantly black audiences have aired public service announcements about the event, but there has not been much discussion about it on the air.
Last week, one could see only a few posters in city store windows or on buses and telephone polls promoting the march.
Local organizers said they received thousands of "street" posters from national organizers just last Wednesday.
"I don't think national headquarters understands that local groups depend primarily on street posters to organize the people. Our money is short," said the spokesperson who asked not to be identified.
"Not having the street posters has hurt the grass roots organization effort but, it's not too late."
The march, as a political event, should offer blacks across the nation a third opportunity this year to display unity and strength and at the same time will give District blacks a chance to redeem themselves for a weak showing made at the historic 1963 march, organizers said.
Phyllis Jones, coordinator for the Metropolitan Washington Coalition of Conscience, said "Blacks showed cohesiveness at least twice this year already," she said, when masses of them voted into office Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor and made W. Wilson Goode, Philadelphia's first major black mayoral candidate. "Now it's time for us to come together again."
With voter registration drives taking place in black communities across the country and with some black leaders actively promoting the possibility of a black presidential candidate, the march could be an emotional boost that might unify blacks and reassure them of their political power, several residents said.
One organizer said D.C. blacks have something to prove in this march. "It is more than a rumor that blacks here did not show strong support for the first march," said the organizer, a longtime city resident and civil rights activist who asked not to be identified. The organizer said the first march had not been promoted well here, and that local black residents, who did not have to face such violent attacks that civil rights demonstrators faced in the South, were not spurred to action as were blacks from other parts of the country.
"If everybody who said that they were there were really there, we would have seen a million people marching," said non-voting congressional Del. Walter Fauntroy D-D.C. .
During the first march, which occurred without a major disturbance, about 250,000 people attended. "This march gives everybody a chance to make their word good," said Fauntroy, who described the event as not only nostalgic but also a "modern struggle to complete and fulfill the dream."
Several persons last week said they intended to be among the thousands expected to march on Washington.
"I hope the march will wake us up. Our people are hurting," said Helen Shamwell, 31, a Northwest resident who works as an assistant to the director of the D.C. Office of Emergency Preparedness.
William "Redds" Grooms, 24, who manages a busy neighborhood variety store at 1214 13th St. NW, said "The key word is togetherness. I'm telling the guys who come in here that we're needed. Duty calls."
"Without a doubt, I'll be there. If I have to take a day off from work, I'll be there," said Delmar Heron, a 25-year-old black ex-Marine who works in building maintenance at the Vista Hotel.
"I don't think anything is going to come out of it. But it could be a start," said Heron, of Northwest D.C. "The main question it will answer immediately is can blacks organize? We've got to stand up and be counted."