Last week was a very special week — the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, by MLK. Between CSPAN and MSNBC, hosted by Al Sharpton and the other VJs, I was able to keep up with the festivities. I was overwhelmed, inspired, and motivated, as I’m sure many were. They had two marches and two rallies in Washington, primarily at the Lincoln monument, where Martin gave his famous speech. So many good people, telling stories and enlightening people about what took place back then and how it relates to now.
During the festivities on Aug. 28 (the actual anniversary), they had Oprah, daughters of Kennedy and Johnson, Presidents Carter, Clinton, and the man Barack Obama. Everybody spoke in a thrilling and uplifting fashion. Rep. John Lewis from Georgia, the last remaining speaker from 1963, gave a couple of rousing addresses. Two of the remaining King siblings, Bernice and Martin, represented their father in fine fashion. But I was overwhelmed, as I’m sure many others were, by the address of Martin’s 85 year old big sister. She spoke of Martin like no one else could, from a baby to the civil rights leader he became, in a way that only big sisters could. I loved her and the family. They clarified to everyone that the original march was to deal primarily with jobs and freedom for the “Negro.” Gaining freedom could have been used as a euphemism for fighting racism. They discussed the lynchings and other killings, the jailings and the segregation of the past while comparing it to today’s affirmative action, voter registration, Trayvon Martin, not to mention the brother that was killed in Oakland (the subject of the Fruitville Station), and other things. There was much talk this time about the challenges that people of color, lesbians and gays, the disabled, and the elderly continue to endure as they fight to gain their true equality in society. Like John Lewis said, we’re still on the battlefields, fighting for equal rights, justice, and economic equity and opportunities.
So much was said about the changes that have taken place in the last 50 years. It’s amazing how people like Obama, Martin III, and Al Sharpton, have been able to unmask contemporary expressions of historic oppressions. Although they had crowds of over 100,000 at the rallies and marches, celebrating and commemorating MLK’s speech and its relevance to changing history, there was dedication and affirmation and commitment toward organizing and unifying to continue the challenges that need to be met to make ours a more just society. Corey Booker described an attitude of sedentary agitation as no excuse for not voting, activism, and action to make your feelings known and to change things for the better. Myrlie Evers, the widow of Medgar Evers, described how “stand your ground” laws can be rethought of as a call to maintain current progress and not let advances that were made over the past 50 years be taken away or rescinded. Laws like “stop and frisk” and “stand your ground” have to be combated and changed to reflect the less burdensome effect on black and brown minorities. Lastly, Rev. Joseph Lowery, one of the original architects of the Movement, expressed his happiness to be alive and witness America’s first African American president and other advances. But he urged us to use this energy and collectivism to win the battles and the war that we’re all still fighting to see the dream realized. He warned us not just to COMMEMORATE, but to go back home and AGITATE!
All in all, it was a wonderful remembrance and an earnest call to organize and unite to make sure Martin’s and all our dreams for America are still realized. Rest in peace, Martin.