In #45’s administration, so many things happen each day that it’s hard to decide the most important issue of the week—but decide we must! Seemingly, everything happening impacts our community one way or the other.
As many of my friends and associates head for Memphis, Tennessee this week, I want to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
50 years ago, Dr. King went to Memphis to support garbage workers who were on strike for their dignity. Their non-violent civil disorder was sparked by the simple declaration, “I AM A MAN!” Since they were men, that declaration shouldn’t have been necessary, but it was.
Since then, along with men of color, millions of women have joined the worldwide effort for the recognition of their right to human equality. Sadly, today finds women singing a refrain much like our predecessor, Sojourner Truth. We still labor with the cry, “I AM A WOMAN, and I deserve to be treated like a human being.”
Like many, I wonder why so many still cling so aggressively to the belief that women and non-whites are lesser humans? I can’t help but wonder what insecurities foster the hatred common to our current time. Why are there such ferocious efforts to revert to an uglier period in time?
As we come to the 50th anniversary of the brutal murder of Dr. King, I suggest we renew our understanding of his vision for us, as well as the challenges he knew we would have to overcome. Let us internalize his words which are celebrated at his memorial in Washington, DC. Given the appropriate focus, we will not be overwhelmed by his historical presence. Instead, as he would wish, we must all be engaged in conduct and behaviors which enhance the process of perfecting our union. His philosophical roadmap allows our society to flourish 50 years after his death and in a far-beyond existence.
Despite the discord of the time, Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech left us these guidelines:
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. (And presumably sisterhood). With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
Whichever you hold most sacred, it is our duty and/or responsibility to move Dr. King’s agenda forward. We can’t stop now or pretend his dream for us in America has come true. That’s what Colin Kaepernick and other modern visionaries tell us when their self-sacrifices challenge America to live up to its creed.
As we reflect upon the greatness of Dr. King during this 50-year observance of his death, let’s also remember, embrace and join in the commitment of other heroes and sheroes who gave their lives to authentically make America great for us all.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. (202) 678-6788. www.nationalcongressbw.org