Remembering The Dream & The Dreamer
January 15, 2013
Change Has Taken Place
It was a stunning vision of racial equality, manifested in a simple yet stirring mantra: "I have a dream." Though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s cherished utopia has not yet arrived, it seems considerably less remote than it did in August 1963 when, from the Washington Mall, King challenged America to make his dream come true.
As we look back at and reflect on the dreams and visions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this month, it's also a time to remember. Like so many others, Dr. King's life and career were remarkably short. He was only 34 when he delivered his landmark "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. in 1963. He was just 35 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. And he was just 39 when he was shot down in a motel in Memphis in 1968.
Dr. King had a recurring dream about African-Americans walking down main streets, sitting in the front of the busses, eating at lunch counters and no longer being afraid, no longer being forced to enter through and eat at rear entrances. In fact, Dr. King's back door was often the influence entry of one of America's most powerful leaders.
He was born and raised in Atlanta, and he preached a philosophy of equality and tolerance that has impacted the entire world and recently earned him a rare honor as a Catholic martyr, even though he was Baptist. His legacy lives on today. Not just in history books, but also through the everyday words and deeds of countless people who still believe in and cherish his dream.
Dr. King's dream and struggles for freedom were not just black or brown struggles, they were human ones. He opened minds, hearts and doors in ways no one had ever done. He made us understand we are tied together in a human destiny of life and bound by faith. That's why we celebrate his life and continue to deeply mourn his passing.
2013 Must Be A Year Of Change
As we move further into the New Year, already we can anticipate some changes in our institutions, government, education, arts, business, radio and music. They all play an important role in advancing multiculturalism. We are, after all, part of an America of many cultures, people and languages. However, obstacles of prejudice and cultural ignorance remind us daily just how lofty a goal "justice for all" really is.
The year 2013 will continue to be marked by some of the most revolutionary events in history: a costly war, tremendous economic and technological advances, globalization, and the emergence of a new movement that has the power to change the face of today's society. We find ourselves filled with questions. What kind of industry and country do we want to have? Can we remain competitive in this decade and beyond? Can we move forward and still hold on to tradition? Will we continue working toward including rather than excluding those who are "other" from our communities, our schools, our radio stations, our record labels and our businesses?
If African-Americans still get much of their information about their communities from black radio, how can we have a strong democracy when most stations are concentrated in the hands of only a few? And it's a few who do not necessarily reflect a growing part of our nation. If we develop into a nation of technological haves and have-nots, divided by income, race and ethnicity, we're going to take a giant step backwards. Rev. Jesse Jackson calls it "the re-segregation of America."
The Digital Divide
What is also real is the speed at which things are changing. Some call it "the digital divide." It's part of "the digital decade." It's a decade of high-definition television and cameras; enhanced iPods and iPads; increased Internet speed and access; digital phones with MP3 capabilities; improved HD Radio and Arbitron's Portable People Meter, which has replaced the diary. The question then becomes how do we make sure the information highway has on-ramps and off-ramps into every neighborhood? This is part of that digital divide. You see it where highways bypassed minority communities or walled them off from the mainstream of commerce. Today you can travel to almost any market in America and see those great superhighways. The information highway can be a bridge that brings us together as an industry or one that continues to divide us.
Today's consumers can shop and buy practically anything, anywhere, anytime. "Going to the mall" without having to be there is turning into a real-time choice as consumers use wireless, web and cable technologies to purchase products and services. They read electronic books without pages. The best customer is still an educated consumer. Now the question that emerges is who educates him? Apathy leads to exploitation. The availability in digitized form of any contest, music, software, movie and book has already become a major factor. None of these things were even in the developing stages when Dr. Martin Luther King was alive, but now, thanks to the new technology, everybody knows about King, many through the use of the new technology.
Someone said of Dr. Martin Luther King's murder back in 1968, they have shot the dreamer and now we will see what happens to the dream. Today, in 2013, Dr. King's "dream" lives on. Dreamers and the power of dreams are important, no matter who's dreaming them.
Dreams allow us to see things other people don't see. All of us -- whether we want to admit it or not, whether we can remember them or not -- have dreams. Some of us are living our dreams. Some of us are still forming our dreams, and, unfortunately, some people have lost or given up on their dreams. As we celebrate and commemorate his birthday, we want to encourage you not to give up on your dreams and to keep the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King's dreams and hopes alive.
Let's briefly turn the clock back to August 28th, 1963, when the world witnessed the largest single demonstration in movement history. It took place in Washington, D.C. when King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. Following the speech and the march, the organizers were invited to a reception at the White House where President John F. Kennedy was bubbling over the success of the march.
Some say the ultimate recognition of Dr. King's crusade to secure equal rights for all came December 10th, 1964 when, at age 35, he was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1966, Dr. King and his family moved to Chicago, so that he could be closer to the poor people in the North who were struggling and suffering. People in the poor neighborhoods in northern cities had problems that were as serious as the discrimination they faced in the South. King planned a Poor People's March on Washington later that year. Shortly before that march in 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis.
When Dr. King visited Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers, he led marchers through the streets to call attention to the reasons for the strike. Violence broke out, and a young man was killed. An investigation was conducted, and it was later determined that the violence was caused by paid provocateurs.
Dr. King was determined to have another, successful march, and a rally was planned for April 3rd, 1968. That night King delivered his famous "Mountaintop" speech, in which he spoke of his mortality. The next day Rev. Ralph Abernathy joined Dr. King in his room at the Lorraine Motel. The conversation was light. About 6 o'clock they went out onto the balcony. It was there that the Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles heard the shot allegedly fired by James Earl Ray, saw King on the floor, and rushed to his side and phoned for an ambulance. At the hospital they waited until the word finally came that Dr. King had passed.
Black people became furious. We were angry not only because Dr. King was killed. We were angry because one of our most respected leaders, one who stressed non-violence, was himself the victim of it. We were angry because we wanted answers. Answers to questions about why, although we were no longer slaves, we were still not really free. We wanted more answers about the life of Dr. King. We wanted to learn more about being respectful. These are the reasons why we celebrate this special day, the dreamer and the reason for the dream.
Dr. King dreamt of a world where elected officials acted more like statesmen than politicians ... where voters or all races realized that matters such as health care, abortion and same-sex marriage are personal, not political issues. Where there are neither red states nor blue states, just United States. Where morality is shared, not legislated. Where Democrats and Republicans, Protestants and Catholics work together side by side. Where Jews and Arabs share territory in the Holy Land. These are dreams and goals we can keep alive, along with hope as we embark upon what is certain to be one of the most exciting and limitless times in history.
We have the power to deliver on Dr. King's dream. To do that we have to first recognize that we have the power to create this world. We can do this if we can accept the views of others, even if they differ from our own. We can make this world, our world, a better place.
And so in 2013 we find there is still only one answer, just one way to deliver on Dr. King's dream. America must say yes diversity and empowerment. Yes to affirmative action as one of our anti-discrimination tools. Yes to working together. Yes to creating sustainable economic partnerships where our inner cities and big business both come out winners. Yes to King's dream and the ideals by which he lived. We need to make this year the one in which we continue to believe in the power of our dreams and wake up to the new realities that power can create.