On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the most iconic speeches of our time. The year marked the 100th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation. In the speech Dr. King paints a picture of the current state of the Negro in 1963 America.
“The Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” A time of social injustice coupled with “unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”
While reading his speech, I kept asking myself, “Has there been any significant changes or could this 50 year old speech be delivered today and carry the same weight?” His speech still rings true for the current state of the African American/Black/ Negro man and woman in 2017. As segregation is no longer a blatant issue, we still face some of the same disparities of the system of 1963.
As Dr. King continues his speech he transitions from the current state of the Negro to his dreams of a much more inclusive future. A future where the promises made by the Declaration of Independence: “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” would one day be true for all men no matter the color of their skin. Dr. King dreamt of a world where a man was not judged by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. As the hashtags change and we continue to add yet another name to the list, we can see that we still have a ways to go before we are solely judged by our character and not by the color of our skin.
But just as Dr. King said in 1963 we must have faith and hope in knowing one day we will be free. Today more than ever we must “work together, pray together, struggle together, go to jail together (not condoning this, but it was in his speech), stand up for freedom together.” Let us remember to “not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” In these times we need unity and conversations to take place. This might mean long uncomfortable conversations with people who don’t look or think like we do. These conversations needs to take place in person, online and in the media. The conversation of injustice need to get so loud no one can ignore it and they have no choice but to address it. Conversations not sparked by hate lead to change. Change will come and once it does we “will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual “Free at last, Free at last, great God A-mighty, we are free at last.””
You can read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s full speech HERE