Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
This coming weekend, no doubt you'll view footage of the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, noted Civil Rights activist. You'll even hear excerpts from those individuals who knew him well about the type of man he was, the troubles he faced and his famous landmark speech "I Have A Dream" in The March On Washington, back on August 28, 1963. Unfortunately, in our generation, the first to benefit the gains (for now) of the Civil Rights struggle and Dr. King's tireless work to bridge the divide between black and white, rich and poor, it would be remiss if we failed to realize among our youth today in the 21st Century, that all they see of Dr. King is the fact he stood up among a crowd of people and declared, "I Have A Dream".
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you Dr. King was more than that, a lot more.
Our youth through no fault of their own, fail to see the protests, the beatings, the many times Dr. King was taken to jail, fighting for Negroes in the South. We know of his non-violence stance, but don't read about civil disobedience, his thoughts on "just and unjust laws", and his opposition to the Vietnam war, which ironically was just as unpopular war as the current one going on now. We don't see those facets of Dr. King because let's face it, they're threatening. Maybe not on the scale of Malcolm X who conveyed a stronger message, but in the minds of the dominant society, King was and will always be in the minds of Traditionalists as an "agitator".
While Dr. King was no saint - and every year you hear stories about his inner demons surfacing - he should be viewed as one man who took it upon himself to *turn the tide* of American society in the South. Jim Crow segregation was a fact of life that my older relatives and parents faced years ago, and the majority of the dominant society in the South were okay with that. Dr. King's actions proved that not only did that discriminatory lifestyle was an offense to Negroes, it was a spiritual offense to the human race as a whole.
Again, our children will be told part of the story, but not the whole. They'll be told that Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize; but won't be told he was stabbed, they'll hear from pundits how elegant and powerful his speeches were, but failing to realize the huge opposition he faced in taking his successful movement to the Northern cities where politicians denied his efforts at every turn. For every victory that Dr. King enjoyed, there was a defeat to remind him and us today, the Dream is halfway complete but not yet finished.
In this 20th year of the King holiday, all we can do to keep his memory alive is to remind our children the Dream is still possible, but also let them know the good doctor was more than just a dreamer. One look at the crumbling social landscape around us today reminds us how far we still have yet to go.