50 years ago to date, Dr. King graced the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered what would go on to be one the most famous speeches in American history. And rightfully so as it eloquently expressed the need for change and equality during the segregated Civil Rights era.
Dr. King’s speech has been weaved into my education for the past 16 years. But as I begin my senior year at Howard University, where I was a part of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, his “I Have a Dream” speech means so much more. As I enter the land of adulthood, I understand that I have a responsibility to continue to live out Dr. King’s dream. To use his words as ammunition to conquer the issues that plague the world that I live in. Like Dr. King and those who advocated for change during the 1960s, I have a voice. I have been oblivious to some issues, falsely under the impression that the topics don’t apply to me right now. But as the government tries to dictate what I can do with my body and as my brothers continue to be stopped and frisked, some even being gunned down because our skin color makes them a “threat to society,” I realize that my job has yet to begin.
Along with hundreds of my fellow Bison, I marched from Howard University to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday August 24, 2013 to take my first step to being drum major for justice as Dr. King said in 1968. We listened to a diverse selection of speakers who pointed out how far we came since 1963 but also reminded us of how much more we have to do to fulfill Dr. King’s dream. Among a sea of people of all ages and races, holding signs that said “We are Trayvon Martin” and “March 4 Change,” I finally felt like I was standing for something. I was a part of something that was greater than me.
After being a part of this commemoration for the March on Washington, the words of Malcolm X chime louder than ever before.
“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
While the first March on Washington focused on inequality, we have a plethora of subcategories to stand for — jobs, voting rights, healthcare, women’s rights, student loans, gun violence, immigration rights, among others. There is too much going on in the world for us to be passive and not involved. We all must stand for something. People fought for the rights that so many of us take for granted. We owe it to them to advocate for change, for the future generations, just like they did for us.
If we fail to rise to the challenge, history will repeat itself. It already is as our country becomes less of a democracy and more of a dictatorship. Do you remember the Grandfather Clauses and literacy tests that kept our ancestors from voting? Slowly but surely the past is making its way to the present as it is becoming harder for us to vote.
Over 50 years later we are still faced with some of the same issues as our ancestors. We are free but we are not equal. And “we” has expanded to include more than simply African Americans – people of different races and those of lower socioeconomic status’ are trapped in a slave mentality by the rulers of this country.
But like Dr. King, I have a dream that it won’t always be this way. If we unite as one and fight for our beliefs and unalienable rights we can leave our legacy. Dr. King proves that it has been done before. Let’s repeat history.
“This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 2013 is not an end, but a beginning.” – Dr. King
To read Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech: http://www.archives.gov/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf