I was just a little boy with typical childhood concerns during the 1960s when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were putting their very lives on the line in the fight for equality for all in a country whose lofty rhetoric remained light years away from its reality.
Still, I remember how Dr. King inspired hope and instilled a needed sense of pride in the hearts and minds of my parents, our relatives, our friends — even in me.
His “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered before a throng of men, women and children during the historical March on Washington, summarized the hopes of Blacks who had grown weary of being relegated to second class citizenship in a land built on the backs of their ancestors.
As we do each January, The Washington Informer looks at the life of the “Dreamer” and how he has continued to influence generation after generation of Americans of all colors and walks of life — even tugging on the heartstrings of those in countries far away.
We share photographs from the 11th MLK Peace Walk and Parade — an annual event held in the District’s Southeast community along the very street named in his honor. One writer reflects on the hurdles that had to be overcome in order to make King’s birthday a national holiday and yearly observance. Another writer invites those of different faiths to share how Dr. King’s message resonates and influences their own lives and relationship with “the Great I Am.”
We include a conversation between our publisher and the eldest son of Dr. King, Martin Luther King III in a candid exchange of reflections about the relevance of his message — almost 50 years after his untimely death.
Amidst marches, peace walks, parades and memorials, his words signaling his refusal to “wait” any longer for rights promised centuries ago but given only to a select few serves as a clarion call for millions of citizens who today find themselves pushed to the margins of society and holding on for dear life.
In his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King eloquently explained why waiting was no longer an option for Black Americans.
“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘wait.’ But when … you are fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’ — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men [and women] are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”
Dr. King stood firmly in his demand for our beloved “land of the free and home of the brave” to make good on the “check” that it had long promised to all of its children without concern for race, religion, gender, economic status — even sexual orientation.
Today, as our first Black president exits the White House, America appears more divided than we have in decades. Today we hear talk of “making America great again,” wondering if this goal is little more than code words for winding back the clock to an era when white was “right” and Blacks were deemed three-fifths of a person.
We have not overcome — not yet — not all of us. But we will. The movement continues.