Actualizing Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream
Fifty years ago today, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
In commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, President Barack Obama will be speaking to the nation on August 28, 2013 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Other speakers include Martin Luther King III, Rev. Al Sharpton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia have spoken at the March.
Many of the speakers at the March on Washington addressed race relations in optimistic terms, describing America’s progress as encouraging but incomplete, but they also delved at times into more controversial fare like the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Dr. King inspired millions across the world with the delivery of his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The monumental event and the organizing that followed helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act – legislation that helped reshape our country and the economy.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters,the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address. Dr. King opened his speech by saying “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” But in the words of Dr. King on that historic day 50 years ago, “…1963 is not the end, but a beginning…” Enormous strides have been made but much work remains to be done to actualize Dr. King’s dream.
We saw the end of Jim Crow. We have seen African Americans, Latinos, women, and others gain access to jobs and education they were previously denied. In 1963, 42 percent of African Americans lived below the poverty line. In 2011,the percentage African Americans that lived below the poverty line dropped to 27 percent. But we are NOT done yet.
In 2013, there is a growing gap of inequality in this country. In 1963, the unemployment rate for black Americans was 10.9 percent; for whites, it was 5 percent. Today, the unemployment rate for black Americans is 14 percent; for whites, it is 6.6 percent. With that being said, more African Americans are unemployed today than they were when Rev. King issued his clarion call for jobs and justice.
While Black unemployment remains disproportionately high, the right-wing legislators are readying themselves to fight for more cuts to the social safety net when Congress resumes next month. And, despite evidence of widespread, coordinated attacks on voter freedom, two months ago the US Supreme Court gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act, the signature achievement of the Civil Rights Movement. As previously stated, though we have come a long way, we still have so much work left to do. These modern injustices demand a modern approach to racial justice organizing.
As Congress debates the federal budget this September, we need to make sure they are doing all they can to create jobs and grow the middle class. EVERYONE deserves an opportunity to succeed.
This year, make your greatest demonstration of freedom—- your vote. Take action that can and will change the future. If you are not already registered, get registered to vote. Seize the opportunity to cast your vote.
Last year, hard won voting rights have been under attack throughout the country. Although court wins in 2012 in the states of Florida, Texas, and Ohio have turned back some of these efforts, other challenges remain and much education and outreach is needed to overcoming the damage that remains from laws enacted precisely for the purpose of making it much harder for millions to register and vote.
As was aptly stated by President Johnson when discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Each election day, vote and take a friend with you to help them exercise their right to determine the destiny of our nation. Your vote can be decisive, stand up, speak out, be heard— cast your vote!
Let freedom ring in 2013.
Sources: CBS News. Christian Science Monitor. Wikipedia. 9-5 Action Alert. 50th Anniversary March on Washington website. FAIR SHARE Action Alert
Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art