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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights legacy was celebrated on Monday, January 20, 2014. The traditional program began on time; Milan R. Balinton, Exec.Dir., AACSA, introduced the co-MC’s Carl Davis, President, Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce and Carolyn Green- Walker, National Council of Negro Women and Garden City Women’s Club.
This report will focus on the keynote address. Dr. Hill is an award winning writer, a columnist and editor-at-large for the Philadelphia Daily News. Of interest will be his book entitled FIRST CLASS JAILS; SECOND CLASS SCHOOLS to be published later this year. His research focuses on the intersections between culture, politics, and education.
Dr. Hill began with a review of the U.S. Constitution as an ideal system of governance which is a ‘work in progress’ Slavery issues were addressed by President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1863) 90 years after this nation accepted the principle that ‘all men are created equal Women obtained 19th Amendment voting rights (1922). President Roosevelt’s New Deal (1930’s) mitigated the impact of the Great Depression by forming the Social Security Administration, Works Progress Administration, FDA, FHA, etc. During World War II, African Americans served in segregated military units until President Truman decreed that its units be integrated. During all this the Negro was subject to Jim Crow laws curtailing voting rights and economic access, especially to good jobs.
What Dr. Martin Luther King did was to listen to the people. And he responded to their needs in a non-violent civil disobediance manner. His purpose was to ‘right the wrong’. His nonviolence approach required discipline and an ability to ‘love your neighbor’ in a meaningful Christian manner.
Imagine….Rev. MLK being dropped brom the Baptist Ministry and Moorehouse College denied him a seat on their Board of Trustees because he is a bad radical influence’! Imagine the courage needed to face those police batons, dogs, and fire hoses while having already decided not to strike back at all. Nonviolence took personal commitment and discipline. Dr. King included Hispanics and Philipinos. He was against the Vietnam War. He listened to the people who were struggling. And for all his efforts, Dr. MLK was assassinated in 1968 shortly after he had delivered his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech where he compared American governance ideals to a promissory note which had not been fulfilled. It is still not being fulfilled today.
In 2008, Obama was elected….the first African American to be elected President. And again by the people in 2012. Civil rights must be reviewed in today’s current context established by the vote of the people not once, but twice. President Obama has been listening to the people. He has identified their hopes and dreams. Are their dreams being fulfilled? Or are their dreams being deferred?
Today, America’s middle class has become its underclass. It’s
children go to bed hungry. The school dropout rate is 50% in some communities; as high as 75% in others. This nation must educate all its children because “one of them will be our leader with ideals and leadership traits just like Dr. MLK!” Dr. King practiced “listening to people”. Understand that Dr. King asked this nation to deliver on its promissory note. It is due to all of us, not just a few of us. There is a national outbreak of poverty today. The ‘War on Poverty’ has become the ‘War on the Poor’.
Dr. Hill asked, “Why is it so hard to get social programs funded? Funding for food stamps was curtailed along with housing, education, unemployment insurance, and health care was blocked. Corporate subsidies were continued. Hill’s point was that poor people must organize. All must have the bravery to speak their truth. Today Dr. MLK would not support any war in Afganistan or Syria. We must say ourthoughts even if it is not a popular thing to do. Visit the prisons; then support schools not prisons.
Let’s fix the wrongs here; then elsewhere. We can do both, but let’s fix our communities first. Our children, begat under bad circumstances are still our responsibility to care for and raise.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM: TOO MANY INDIVIDUALS WHO DO NOTHING AND SAY NOTHING. Imagine changes needed. Then take responsible action. Address every wrong that exists in your communities: violence; drugs; no jobs; no housing; no access to personal opportunity; curtailed access to vote. The personal challenges faced by Dr. MLK still exist. Imagine his dream; then do something today.
For his insightful remarks, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill received an extended standing ovation.