Martin Luther King’s dream is alive
By Kevin Powell
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would hardly recognize America in 2013, the 50th anniversary year of his world-famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The efforts of King and countless others have not only made it possible for Barack Obama to become the first black president of the United States, but also created unprecedented opportunities for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and virtually anyone who had previously been given a check that has, as King put it, “come back marked ‘insufficient funds.'”
I personally cannot think of MLK Day without reflecting on my life as a product of post-civil rights America: I was conceived on the coattails of that movement to a single mother, absent father, horrific poverty, and despair and fear I would not wish upon anyone.
Yet here I am, a direct beneficiary of King’s legacy. I do not take the opportunities given to me lightly. Especially since my mother, born in South Carolina in the Jim Crow-era, has sickening memories of the racial oppression back in those days. Her family had no electricity, no indoor running water and no television.
The day that King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, my mother turned 20. “We knew there was colored folks marching in Washington,” my mother told me. “We just did not know what for exactly.”
The what for had everything to do with democracy, freedom, voting and citizenship rights, for a group longed blocked from the doors of the American dream. It means the only way we could ever come to “a beautiful symphony of brotherhood” that King spoke of is for each of us, no matter our background, to honor and recognize who we are, including very uncomfortable parts of our history, like slavery, which was depicted in recent films like Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” We cannot sit at the table of diversity and multiculturalism if we are not even clear what we are bringing to share.
In King’s speeches and writings in the last years of his life, he wanted people, including black people, to embrace and appreciate their culture and heritage. But it was never an either or for him. King worked for and loved Black America, and he worked for and loved America.
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