Fifty years ago today, something momentous took place in Washington, D.C. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took to the podium at the historic March on Washington to deliver his famed “I Have a Dream” speech, the tapestry of the United States was set to be forever changed. Little did he realize that all these years later, his words would echo with as much resonance as they did that day.
What an amazing premise was the entire concept of the march. A peaceful, non-confrontational way to express the disappointment of a marginalized race of people, the walk drew participants from every walk of life. Rich or poor, young or old, even white or black, it didn’t matter; the mission was the same…equality. And 50 years later, Dr. King’s words still hang in the ears of those who still struggle for equality.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
In 1963, those words did indeed ring true; with some caveats. Even though for the first time in history blacks were to be viewed as equal to their white brethren, many didn’t see it that way. To many, to be black was to still be inferior. And sadly, this is still in the mind of many in this country today. But much of what the March on Washington stood for is outside of race. The poverty level for blacks in that time was huge, and no opportunities were available. Before the march, there was no hope of this statistic changing. So while race was the impetus behind the march, what it really stood for was having the opportunity to have a chance…a chance at a better quality of life.
“We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi and the Negro in New You believes he has nothing to vote for.”
Affirmative action, anti-discrimination laws, and greater opportunities for education have all helped blacks in the U.S. to achieve that chance at a better life. Blacks have been offered greater opportunities in business, in their communities, in politics. Adopting the moniker African Americans, we have chosen to pick up the gauntlet that Dr. King threw down that day in 1963. Many of us have run with it, some have stumbled and fallen. But with the resiliency of a people long presumed to be destined for failure, we press on…and will continue to do so.
“We ain’t where we could be, we ain’t where we should be, but thank God we ain’t where we was.”
Fast forward 50 years, and today the struggle for equality has shifted. As African Americans, our pursuit of a better quality of life has been improved…but there is still ground to cover. And now, we need to take those lessons taught to us by Dr. King, and share them with those facing the marginalization and discrimination that many before us endured. And it is also important to pay homage to those who lost their lives in the pursuit.
“Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, we are free at last.”
Much thanks…to Dr. King, and to all those who had the courage to stand up to their beliefs. We all owe each and every one a debt of thanks.