Young, Black students share their oratory strengths in a powerful message
What do you think about when you reflect upon the message delivered in the famed “I Have a Dream” speech by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Does it cross your mind that we would be fighting for the same wishes, wants, and necessities shared within its lines? Do you sit and wonder about “how far we have come” and “how far we still have to go”? Where do you go? Where does your mind take you when you hear the depth and breadth of his voice as those words were uttered on August 28, 1963?
I can tell you what it does to me — how it shifts the very essence of who I am. How it enforces the fears I hold within me regarding the America of today. I feel no safer today than I did ten years ago. In fact, I am more on edge in the year of our Lord, 2021, than I have ever been. If I had to guess, I would venture in saying I am sure the late Dr. King would have never envisioned this America fifty-eight years later. In essence, it is the same America he was brutally killed in while trying to bring about a massive change in a peaceful way.
It is the same America that burned crosses in the front yards of African American families fighting their way up the rungs of ladders that never seemed to end. It is the same America that sprayed human beings with high-pressure water hoses or fire hydrants and sicced dogs on fleeing bodies with flailing limbs, seeking safety. It is the same America where the very mention of “reparations” makes those in favor of white supremacy flinch and toot up their noses.
We have come a mighty long way. We have a mighty long way to go.
The things that make America beautiful to me can be easily overshadowed by the bloodstained countrysides, history of enslavement, police brutality, lack of financial support and assistance for those below and slightly above the poverty line, anyone voicing All Lives Matter, constant display of inequality, and now, the alarming rates at which Black people and People of Color are becoming infected and dying from the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
It is the same America where the very mention of “reparations” makes those in favor of white supremacy flinch and toot up their noses.
Is this the America someone thinks about when they dream of a better place?
I highly doubt it.
My sister Bless and a group of her colleagues at Clayton State University, located in Morrow, Georgia, created a video based on the “I Have a Dream” speech, and in it they share what they dream about for the America they want. They express themselves with vigor, intelligence, worthiness, and poise. They display exactly what it means to voice your opinion without being offensive but with a stern delivery.
These are the faces of the future. These are the hearts that are breaking as they watch the same America Dr. King watched, the same America I have watched, and the same America many others before me died fighting for but did not gain anything from it.
“In a sense, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.” A check we know may be counted void or stopped upon seeking its payment. A check that would never ever be enough for the pain endured, the lives lost, and the depletion of energy as the fight continues. A check that would be a constant reminder of something given to us in order to shut us up. We are coming for what is due and the youth are on the front lines.
“We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” There is hope within these lines. Hope for significant change. Hope for an America, that when we think of her, we will not feel shame. Hope for allies who will speak up and fan the flames instead of finding comfort in their silence and safety behind their locked doors. Hope for the day that such speeches will not have to exist.
I am honored to share with each of you the voices of several Black students who know the value of their lives and those lives of Black people and People of Color who struggle to be seen, heard, loved, respected, cared for, and celebrated in an America who has yet to open, really open her eyes.
Their message is one of strength, determination, will, and the understanding of a man’s dream that never came true and how one day, we hope that it will.
How one day, we hope there is more love thrown upon us than accusations, distrust, neglectful behavior, and racist acts. We deserve it. We have fought for it.
And now, we demand it.