I Have A Dream …

Today is a federal holiday in the United States — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Parts of this are from a post I wrote two years ago, for it said what I wanted to say then, as it does now.  So, while some of this post is recycled, so to speak, I have updated it and added a few things.  In honour of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” 

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”

mlk-3Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on 15 January 1929.  He would have been 90 years old last Tuesday, had he lived. On this day, we celebrate not only his life, but also his legacy. Martin Luther King Day celebrates not only Dr. King, but the movement he inspired and all those who helped move forward the notion of equal rights for ALL races, all those who worked tirelessly during the civil rights era of the 1960s, as well as those who are continuing the good fight even in this, the year 2019.

Dr. King, along with President John F. Kennedy, was the most moving speaker I have ever heard.  To this day, I cannot listen to his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech without tears filling my eyes.  If you haven’t heard it for a while, take a few minutes to watch/listen … I promise it will be worth your time.

This post is both a commemoration and a plea for us to carry on the work that was only begun, not yet finished, more than five decades ago.  Today we should remember some of the great heroes of the civil rights movement, those who worked tirelessly, some who gave their lives, that we could all live in peace and harmony someday: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lena Horne, Marva Collins, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Roy Innes, Medgar Evers, Booker T. Washington, John Lewis, Percy Julian, Marcus Garvey, Desmond Tutu, E.D. Nixon, James Meredith, and so many more.  I am willing to bet there are some on this list of whom you’ve never heard, or perhaps recognize the name but not the accomplishments. If you’re interested, you can find brief biographies of each of these and more at Biography.com .

Yet, while we celebrate the achievements of Dr. King and the others, there is still much to be done. Just look around you, read the news each day. Think about these statistics:

  • More than one in five black families live in households that are food insecure, compared to one in ten white families
  • Almost four in ten black children live in a household in poverty, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Among prime-age adults (ages 25 to 54), about one in five black men are not in the labor force, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Although blacks and whites use marijuana at approximately the same rate, blacks are over 3 and a half times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession
  • For every dollar earned by a white worker, a black worker only makes 74 cents
  • Black families are twice as likely as whites to live in substandard housing conditions
  • Black college graduates now have twice the amount of debt as white college graduates
  • The likelihood of a black woman born in 2001 being imprisoned over the course of her lifetime is one in 18, compared to 1 in 111 for a white woman
  • Similarly, the likelihood of a black man being imprisoned is 1 in 3, compared to 1 in 17 for a white man
  • Of black children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, about half of them will still be there as adults, compared to less than one-quarter of white children

Data courtesy of the Brookings Institute – for charts and supporting details of above date, please click on link. 

And of course the above data does not even touch upon the recent spate of hate crimes, racial profiling, and police shootings against African-Americans.  There is still much of Dr. King’s work to be accomplished. But who is left to do this work?  Most of the leaders of yore are long since gone. There are still noble and courageous people out there carrying on the programs and works of Dr. King and the others, but their voices are perhaps not as loud, and there are none so charismatic as the late Dr. King.

In the current environment of racial divisiveness, we need more than ever to carry on what Dr. King only started. Instead, the past two years have found our nation backtracking on civil and human rights in a number of areas, ranging from discriminatory travel bans against Muslims to turning a federal blind eye to intentionally racially discriminatory state voter-suppression schemes, to opposing protections for transgender people, to inhumanely separating children from families seeking to enter the country.  I think Dr. King would be appalled if he returned to visit today.

In a speech on April 12th, 1850, then-Senator and future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis said:

“This Government was not founded by negroes nor for negroes, but by white men for white men.” [1]

That was wrong then, it is wrong today, and it will always be wrong.  That is what Dr. Martin Luther King fought against, that is what I rail and sometimes rant against, that is why we need activists and groups dedicated to fighting for equality for all people … today, tomorrow, and forever.

Here is a bit of trivia you may not know about Dr. King …

  • King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin.
    The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.

  • King entered college at the age of 15.
    King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College, the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Although he was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, King did not intend to follow the family vocation until Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays, a noted theologian, convinced him otherwise. King was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology.

  • King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
    Six years before his iconic oration at the March on Washington, King was among the civil rights leaders who spoke in the shadow of the Great Emancipator during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. Before a crowd estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000, King delivered his first national address on the topic of voting rights. His speech, in which he urged America to “give us the ballot,” drew strong reviews and positioned him at the forefront of the civil rights leadership.

  • King was imprisoned nearly 30 times.
    According to the King Center, the civil rights leader went to jail 29 times. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.

  • King narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death.
    On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of delicate emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him. From his hospital bed where he convalesced for weeks, King issued a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his mentally ill attacker.

  • King’s mother was also slain by a bullet.
    On June 30, 1974, as 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead. Chenault received a death penalty sentence that was later changed to life imprisonment, in part due to the King family’s opposition to capital punishment.

Dr. King fought and ultimately gave his life for the values I believe in, the values that should define this nation, though they often do not.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a hero of his time … thank you, Dr. King, for all you did, for the values you gave this nation, and for the hope you instilled in us all that your dream will someday come true.

[1] (Kendi, 2016)   stamped

Jolly Monday will return at its regularly scheduled time next week.

48 thoughts on “I Have A Dream …

  1. His views on Vietnam, on race, on a number of things were considered too radical back in his day. This is not a slight on MLK but instead pointing out that if we had his second coming, he might not be loved.

    I think he is widely loved because of a couple of things. First, death (especially death by assassination) changed a lot of things. Second, some of us have a highly sanitized view of what he was and what he spoke about. Many people think of peace, love, marching nonviolently, and “I Have a Dream.” All these things about him are true, but he was also an advocate for change in a world where change for many was uncomfortable. He was also anti-war before it was popular to be anti-war. He also spoke out against the “white moderate” in his “Letter to a Birmingham Jail.”

    Make no doubt…I think he’s great and his messages are still relevant today. But not everyone would feel the same way, probably, if they learned more about him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make very valid points! I am likely one of those with a ‘sanitized view’ of him and his accomplishments, and while I hadn’t considered it before, it is true that death, especially an untimely and violent death, do erase the flaws and elevate the person to a pedestal. I do think King was a wonderful man and had values that I will always admire, but he was just that … a man … a human being, complete with flaws. We tend to forget those today, don’t we? Thank you for your perspective, for you have made me think. I will always admire him, but could he and his values, his message, even survive in this, the 21st century? I’m not so sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent post and tribute encompassing the man and the dream, including information I did not know and needed to remember like the speech I needed to listen to again. I am re-awakened to how much he and his family had to overcome and to the depth of their dedication. The dream was and is powerfully good. “If America is to become a great nation, this must become true.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post Jill, excellent tribute
    We remember and revere Martin Luther King. His name is universally known and will echo down the ages.
    Can any racist claim that for any KKK or American Neo-Nazi leader? You have go googling for that sort of info or visit wacko-sites.
    King always wins out, you lot…you lose.

    Liked by 1 person

        • True … and another reader mentioned something that I hadn’t thought of … if he were here today, or if we had another like him, he wouldn’t likely be very popular, for MLK was greatly disliked by some, mainly I think for his views on Vietnam. I do wonder how he would be received today … 🤔

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m guessing much the same way as he was then Jill, only today with a social media Hurricane from all sides.
            So the controversary, the hate, the love and the praise would sound much louder. Particularly as we’ve got a creature in the Whitehouse; though he might fade out through the consequential apoplexy at trying to deal with such a giant.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Y’know … you make a good point there. The internet, instant communication, and especially ‘social’ media have truly changed society, hasn’t it? And not necessarily for the better. There are things I greatly appreciate about the internet, but it has made it all too easy for people without functioning brains to spout hate and incite violence. It magnifies everything and gives voice to those who might not otherwise have one. This can be a good thing, but it can also be a very bad thing. Brains … coherent thought … compassion … those things are noticeably absent on most social media.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yep…
                Sad but true Jill.
                One of the favourite targets on my neck of the woods is any UNICEF post, attracts the spiteful and ignorant so with keyboard primed and fingers flexed I go shmuck hunting; bagged me a pair yesterday. 😼

                Liked by 1 person

  4. “If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.” These words by Martin Luther King, Jr. were spoken, almost a year before his death, in the “Beyond Vietnam : A Time to Break the Silence” speech in April 1967. In view of the times in which we find ourselves, as the history of injustice to many repeats itself over and over, his words are no less relevant today. In his book, “Stride Toward Freedom : The Montgomery Story”, that was published in late 1957 about the Bus Boycott of ’55-56, he wrote that “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Does not this also remain true today? Your outstanding tribute to the man that rose above hate and lost his life while fighting injustice, contains the powerful speech of his dream that has yet to be fulfilled. It is left to all of us to insure that his life’s work will not have been in vain, to make sure that his words : “You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream”, become a reality. Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • P.S. I was going to add this and then decided that my P for L needed to be curtailed, however in hindsight, here it is for whatever it may be worth. It is never too soon to begin to share the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with children. The charming series of children’s books for the K-3, ages 5-8 years by the New York Times best selling author, Brad Meltzer, “Ordinary People Change the World” includes “I am Martin Luther King, Jr.” It is one among the many that I purchased and read aloud with Benjamin. There are also ones about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks too! Thank-you, again!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I firmly believe that the lessons, the message of Dr. Martin Luther King are as relevant today as they were 50+ years ago, and oh, how I wish he were still here, with that I saw someone with his powerful voice, huge heart, and gift of locution on the horizon today. Though he could not have done what he did without the help of so many others, it was he who brought the voices together, he who transmitted the message. Thank you, Ellen, for your kind words and your good heart.


  5. Reblogged this on On The Fence Voters and commented:
    Here is a wonderful post from Jill Dennison. As thousands of federal workers continue to be held hostage by a president who stands for everything Dr. King would have found repulsive, this day deserves even more deference. His words and actions continue to resonate. In America, we tend to take two steps forward, followed by a step or two back. We’ve made progress. Yet, racial and gender injustice continue. I’m still optimistic believe it or not. This too shall pass. Dr. king’s vision for a more just world is still unfulfilled. But if we continue to stand up to those who would love to take us back to an era where so many were marginalized, we will eventually achieve the dream he so eloquently spoke of. I hope I’ll be alive to see it.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Dear Jill and Friends,

    I look upon Rev. Martin Luther King because he talked often about things should be or could be. He gave us hope and his words ring true to us today and gives us hope. He presents us with an image of what this USA to be like to be a truly great nation.

    I also recall how vilified Rev. King was by the right and that the FBI had him under surveillance. He didn’t look at them, he looked beyond them.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

    • He was a truly great man, though he never saw himself as such, and we surely could use one like him today! I love the way you phrase that … “He didn’t look at them, he looked beyond them.” That is exactly what he did … he saw beyond the pettiness and hatred to a world that we could have.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. An amazing man who tried to change the world, but who became too good at what he was doing. Who paid to have him killed? We will probably never know. He died too young.
    Meanwhile, you gave a list of people who made strides in the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement, but at least one name is conspicuously missing: Stepen Bantu Biko. In a few short years he changed the political life of South Africa by raising the consciousness of black South Africans, and lifting them up from virtual slaves to a proud people. He was killed by South African police in 1977. The trial testimony he gives in BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS IN SOUTH AFRICA is one of the most awe-inspiring books I have ever read. They tried to tell his story in the movie BIKO but they failed miserably. I first heard of him through a song by folksinger Tom Paxton, and when I accidently came into possession of the above book in the 80s it changed my life.
    Thank you, Jill, for giving me a platform to discuss this man’s life, and death, even this little bit. He belongs right next to Mr. King at the top of the list of black activists in our world, despite so few people ever having heard of him. May they both be remembered as long as racism exists in our world!

    Liked by 3 people

    • ‘Tis true that he died far too young, and who knows what he might have accomplished, given another 30-40 years? It seems to be the way of the world that evil lives to a ripe old age, while those who are on the path of making positive changes that benefit all, are smitten before their full potential is known.

      You are right that Stephen Bantu Biko is another who deserves recognition, but the reason he wasn’t included in my list was that I was only looking at those who had made a difference here in the U.S. with that list. However, at some point, I may do a post about him, for his contributions were monumental in the anti-apartheid movement.

      Thank YOU, for reminding me of yet another great man!


      • Not trying to argue, Jill, but I advanced Biko’s name because you listed Nelson Mandala and Bishop Tutu. Biko rates at least as high as them, if not higher. He was active for less than 10 years, but in those few years he probably did more to advance the condition of black people than anyone else ever did, especially if you consider the regime he was fighting. Can you imagine if the USA went apartheid?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. America had a great leader in MLK. And now it could use another one, for I see Martin Luther King’s dream fading under the oppressive forces.
    I believe that there was an incident in Covington, Kentucky, when white supremist kids taunted a local Native demonstration. Video shows a student in a Trump hat, invading the space of a Native Drummer and fixing him with what I would describe as a taunting, ‘dare you’ smile. The student claims he was trying to calm things… It does not look like it to me. MLK would not tolerate this! Neither should we.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are so right … we need a MLK more today that at any time since the Civil Rights era.

      The students involved in that incident were from Covington, KY,, about 25 miles south of where I live, just over the Ohio River, and in fact about 25 years ago, I briefly dated a man who was a teacher there. It is a private, Catholic school whose students come from wealthy, privileged backgrounds. Those students were disrespectful, rude and arrogant, but their parents hired expensive lawyers who are trying to put a different spin on the whole incident. I will take the word of the Native American over that of some rich, spoiled white kids any day.

      Liked by 1 person

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