“Tell them about the Dream, Martin,” Or, Carrying a Heavy Load

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–

And, then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or, crust and sugar over–

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or, does it explode?

–“Harlem” by Langston Hughes

1963 March On Washington

1963 March On Washington

On August 28, 2013, our country will celebrate 50 years since the historic March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

The contents of that speech was not what Dr. King originally planned to discuss. Just after he spoke on the issues in his prepared text, singer Mahalia Jackson yelled, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” Scholars believe that Mahalia Jackson prompted Dr. King’s extemporaneous speech on his dream for a better America.

As I reflect on his “dream” for this 50 year celebration, I cannot help but consider it in the context of this tough summer we had in civil rights.

Arguably one of the most significant accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement is the Voting Rights Act and this summer, parts of its provisions were overturned. Immediately after the decision was made, the State of Texas put into action new voting districts that diminish the power of black voters.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”–Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

In addition to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there was another keynote speaker the day of the march, and he was a 23 year old powerhouse named John Lewis.

In 1963, John Lewis was the President of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and had such a  powerful voice that he was invited to speak alongside Dr. King. I think about John Lewis often, nowadays, as I reflect on the current state of race relations and civil rights, and I wonder how painful it must have been for him to witness significant parts of voters rights revoked.

This past Saturday, there was a march that commemorated the one 50 years before, and it established the need to address the current social and political needs of African Americans. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), who 50 years before spoke to a crowd about their inalienable rights as citizens of the United States, reaffirmed the need for blacks to stay vigilant in their fight for civil rights. He also made clear that he would not “stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.”

Where are we today in actualizing Dr. King’s dream? Has his dream been deferred?

What do you think about Dr. King’s Dream? What has disturbed you or what (if anything) has this country done right?