Is Dr. King's dream still alive? Are we living it? I asked several prominent figures in the African American community this question. Roland Martin suggested that we all go back and read or listen to the first two-thirds of the "I Have a Dream" speech. When I did, I found that King talked about doing more than just marching and singing. He stressed that when marchers went back home to their cities that they were to live the messages and chants of the march. He preached that they not become so easily satisfied.
Dr. King was for justice and equality. Mostly though, he was for the less fortunate, poor people. During those days in the 60's, the black community rallied around him. They believed in his words. They lived in segregation and unequal conditions and held peaceful demonstrations just as King had asked.
The black celebrity and athlete was a different breed in those days as well. There were those like Muhammad Ali who put his whole career on the line because of his beliefs. He stayed in the communities being a role model for black youth. In addition, Jim Brown quit professional football when he was at the top of his game for his beliefs. He dedicated the rest of his life, even today, reaching back teaching our youth a better way. Entertainers such as Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory did the same. Where are our grass root entertainers and sports figures today? Doesn't it seem like today everyone is thinking "me, me, me," while our communities continue to starve, kill one another, and become less educated.
Are we all too selfish? Do we really think we reached Dr. King's dream, and it's all good now, or do we even care? I got fired from my career job at a major news network in Atlanta about 10 years ago because I was outspoken about what I thought were unfair hiring practices. I had remained in the same entry level position over two years while watching them hire younger whites fresh out of school to work alongside me and in a few short months move up above me and my fellow black co-workers. I spoke out often to whoever would listen and was eventually black-balled. I was later fired because of a lot of smaller offenses.
Over the past 10 years, I've often thought back on how I handled that and struggled with if I were right or wrong. But when you witness an injustice, I don't think you should keep quiet. What if Dr. King and Malcolm X had kept quiet because they wanted to make money and raise a family?
They were just two of our leaders that were not fired, but killed because they dreamed of a better day for you and me. They both knew they would be killed. They didn't just preach and give their theories to newspapers, magazines and news outlets. They got out in the streets and put together organizations like the SCLC, The Black Muslim Mosque, The O.A.A.U., etc. They organized meetings and marches. They got on our oppressors' nerves and were unapologetic about it.
So who do we turn to today? You? Where are our grassroots brothers and sisters? Are we afraid to get our hands dirty? With all the violence, miseducation, teenage pregnancy, and poverty in our communities, we definitely need someone who is not afraid to get his or her hands dirty and who is not just trying to get some media attention. Are we all afraid of what would happen to us publicly? Is there anyone out there today willing to take a bullet as a cost for the advancement of our people? It's up to us to not only keep Dr King's dream alive, but live the dream and make sure our future generations live it. There is nothing worse than a dream deferred.
"If a man happens to be 36-years old as I happen to be and some great truth stands before the door of his life, some great opportunity to stand for that which is right. And the man might be afraid his home will be bombed, or he's afraid that he will lose his job, or he's afraid that he will get shot or beat down by state troopers...He may go on to live until he's 80. But he's just as dead at 36 as he would be at 80, and the sensation of breathing in his life is merely the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit...He Died!!! A man dies when he refuses to stand up for which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for which is true.
So we're going to stand up amid horses. We're going to stand up right here in Alabama amidst Billy clubs. We're going to stand up right here in Alabama amidst police dogs if they have them. We're going to stand up amidst tear gas! We're going to stand up amidst anything they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determined to be free!"
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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