50 Years Later: Wake up from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Dream

Sherri Jefferson is an advocate, author, and an attorney. Transforming the lives of children is her passion. Transferring knowledge is her profession.

People across this country remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week as April 4th marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
Schools, churches, and communities attended rallies honoring his work and many engaged in conversations about the progress made in America since his death.

A Day to Remember
For many, the goal was to remember King’s message regarding race, racial tolerance, and civil rights. For others, its was to embark upon a new vision for America to “Make America Godly Again.”
Fifty years later, America is still experiencing a great divide based upon race, nationality, social status, education, employment, and religion.
While racism still exists, the great divide in America is neither democrat nor republican, Jew nor Gentile, Christian nor Muslim. The great divide in America today is based upon the power of economics.

A Street Named King
Travel to any city in America with a street that bears the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, and you will find poverty and a broken and tragic public system (education, housing, healthcare, and transportation).
You will find communities plagued by gang and gun violence, crime, HIV/AIDS and STDs and sex trafficking. Moreover, these communities also suffer from a DIG mentality of drugs, drunkenness, illiteracy, ignorance, guns and greed.
Throughout America, we have seen a rise in the number of black men and women who are college educated and we have seen a rise in gainful employment. We also witness the number of blacks who have left urban communities and urban decay to find a safe haven and better school districts for their children.

Is Change Coming?
Atlanta has surely seen its share of change. What would Dr. King think about gentrification and a failed public school system that has lead to the nations’ biggest cheating scandal? Would he support school systems engaged in social promotion?
Would he support school systems who think that black children cannot learn? Would he support vouchers or a downward spiral of a failed educational system? Would he support the privatization of education versus a public education? What would he think about relinquishing federal control over public schools and giving the power back to the states?
What would Dr. King think about the power of the black vote, that has been owned by the democratic party for more than 80 years with no progress? What would he think about black women dominating the democratic vote, but never serving as president of the party? How would he address the fact that no black women serve on the Supreme Court of the United States?
As a pastor and community activist, would Dr. King support mega churches who are so far removed from the real issues of their surrounding communities and congregation or would he admonish money-hungry, millionaire pastors?
It is easy for us to reflect upon the “I Have a Dream” speech, which recites his dream for “little black boys and girls to join little white boys and girls in sister and brotherhood,” but what does that mean in 2018?

Then and Now
You see, today our churches and school systems are as segregated as they were in 1968; even more compelling, voting rights and other constitutional safeguards are far reaching. Police brutality, employment and housing discrimination and the inability to finance higher education is as prevalent today as it was back then.
The role of historical black colleges and universities are called into question and many have ceased operations since 1968; furthermore, some have defrauded black students.
It is safe to embrace Dr. King’s nonviolent and unity speeches, but it is uncomfortable to examine and put into practice the crux of his speech, which called for recompense and change. For such reasons, it is easier to commercialize Dr. King, rather than go deep into the waters.
We choose to avoid, for the sake of confrontation, the call to America to free the slave. Even more compelling, we avoid conversations and confrontations about race, racism, and racial inequality.
Dr. King reminded us that 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Negro was unchained, but not free. He reminded us about discrimination, poverty, and inequality. Fifty years since his death, black people still cry freedom.
One day, they will embrace that freedom is a state of mind and not predicated upon the physical or tangible elements that hold us captivate. Many of the struggles faced by blacks today can be cured by blacks from within our own community. Dr. King did not embrace victimization. He declared victory!
Nevertheless, Dr. King reminded us about the struggle for human rights – not civil rights that are controlled by legislative powers. He engaged us regarding citizenship for the Negro in America. His teachings and speech remind us that the struggle for racial justice is not a headliner for local news. Rather, it must become a way of life.
Today, the prison and probation population is America is privatized. While blacks represent less than 15 percent of the American population, they represent almost half of the nation’s prison population in most federal and state systems.
In some jurisdictions, they represent more than 80 percent. Black children also represent less than 15 percent of the general population, but almost 40 percent of the children in foster care and more than 60 percent of children detained in juvenile detention facilities.

Looking to the Future
The moral of this story is that 50 years since the assassination of Dr. King, people need to wake up from dreaming. Moreover, blacks in America need to create a new vision for themselves that is relevant to the times. God gave Dr. King a dream for a season. Now, it is time that people create a vision for the future.
We are grateful for his service and commitment to all of America. Now, we must learn from his teaching and principles, but it is time to move forward. Dr. King was a visionary. He would implore us to create, implement, orchestrate, and deploy a new direction for the future of America.

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