In light of the coming and going of Black History Month, I recall a story my grandmother told me before, and of the lessons I have learned from it. On a warm May night in 1965, my grandparents sat around a table with their friends at the Golden Slipper Square Club in Philadelphia, and on stage was a man who no one will ever forget; a man who died to free others.
Martin Luther King Jr. was that man, and in his speech to the primarily white audience, Dr. King spoke of equality of all races, and of accepting people who looked differently than they do. After the speech, the audience clapped politely and resumed their meals, not wanting to disturb the speaker. My grandmother however, decided she would thank him for his words, which resonated in a certain way with her. She shook Dr. King’s hand and told him she admired his ideals, and with a big grin on his face, he said “Thank you for shaking my hand. I want to tell you, despite what they say about me, I cannot make people love me, all I can do is hope that when they hear me speak they will let me live.”
Dr. King signed a copy of Cable Tow magazine for my grandmother (which now hangs in my parent’s living room) and thanked her again, for having the courage to accept him for who he was. Three years later, Dr. King was dead, but not before he told the nation of his dream.
But do we honour Dr. King’s wishes? Today our people still face hatred based on race. Despite the progress our nation has made by electing a black president, something Dr. King could never have imagined, much of the minority population still lives in poverty, because the system is not designed to help them succeed.
Because people are born into poor families, they are automatically denied an equal chance to succeed. In our system, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. That said, ask yourself, have we held true to Dr. King’s vision, to his dream? That we let so many of our fellow countrymen, our brothers and sisters down?
It is up to us to make Dr. King’s dream come true. It is our task to raise all our brothers and sisters up the same level, so that together we will achieve that noble goal of equality.