On Saturday, August 24, 2013 in Washington D.C. a historic moment was celebrated and another was created. In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington, tens of thousands of people from across the country assembled at the National Mall. This prodigious event hosted a great deal noted orators, which included the last living speaker from the original march 50 years ago, Representative John Lewis. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to bear the title, delivered a very inspiring speech, which included these words:
As we gather today, 50 years later, their march – now our march – goes on. And our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this country who still yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment.
Fifty years after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered a unparalleled vision of racial harmony for America’s future in the form of what has become known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, much remains unfinished. It is both unaccepted and disrespectful to those that paid a price with their life to say that nothing has changed; however, we can all see that there is much work to do.
On today, August 28, 2013, as I watch coverage of celebration of this historic moment and wait to hear the first African American President speak on the subject, the need to advance the dream continues. The speech and the march that took place 50 years ago blazed the trail for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It was a monumental moment and speech but it also signaled the awakening of a people. It signaled the welding of a people together for the cause of jobs and freedom. 50 years later, jobs and freedom are still in need of labors but too many of us have put down our tools.
During the March last week, Attorney General Holder stated, “This morning as we recommit ourselves to [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s] quest for progress, we also stand on the shoulders of untold millions whose names may be lost to history, but whose stories and whose contributions must be remembered and must be treasured.” It is on those shoulders that Rev. Al Sharpton delivered an influential speech about next steps. In it he spoke to the black community, saying, “Don’t disrespect your women. Make it clear that you know that Rosa Parks wasn’t no ‘ho,’ and (voting rights activist) Fannie Lou Hamer wasn’t no b—h.” However, he beckoned a new generation to stand up in the face of this new struggle. The content may be the same but the context has changed. In the past, the movement focused on the struggle while those that sought to hinder change focused on the people. In this day and age too many people are focused only on themselves. In so doing, those that sought to hinder the dream by distracting the dreamers have been given the room to succeeded. Nevertheless, I am still hopeful.
Rev. Sharpton reminds us that Dr. King had a dream because “Dreams are for those who won’t accept reality as it is, so they dream of what is not there and make it possible.” To all of those that disagree with the disparate reality they see, it is time to advance the dream. I do not write this to amplify or exalt one side or the other. I am writing to ask if we the people can have a real conversation and I mean a real one. One that is not littered by the pollution of private interest. One that is not parceled by partisan politics. One that is not hampered by hatred and bigotry. I would like us to have a real conversation in this country. One that addresses the reality that Jim Crow died but racism did not. One that adopts the reality that ignoring a problem does not fix it. One that acknowledges the fact the interest of a few will never successfully benefit the most.
I did not see the racism of my father’s generation and my little brother did not see the racism of mine but we have look across generations and see what we have in common. Too many have sought to deny or ignore the problem. We the people mentioned in the acclaimed constitution of these United States includes each of us with roots in these hollowed grounds. We have a lot of work to do and until we have a real conversation there will be no change. I am not asking that we fix the problem tomorrow but there is urgency for action. Problems with jobs, inequality, voters’ rights and much more are real issues that can be fixed in community and in love. Talk about it and then do something.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run, Yours is the earth and everything in it. Which is more, you’ll me a man my son” – Rudyard Kipling