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As tens of millions make xx-ready to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the 1963 “March on Washington,” it is imperative that all of America look back and look forward simultaneously. The greatest disservice we can do to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King is to leave him on the Washington Mall…dreaming. Dr. King was not assassinated for his Dream; he was fatally felled because he fully intended to realize his dream of social justice and equality.
The final days of his life and living are replete with examples. Dr. King was already plotting the next move before the ink could dry on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After whipping the legal factions of Jim Crow to a pulp in the South, he looked northward and led the “People to People” tour summoned by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Shortly after enlisting other Freedom Fighters in Chicago, King moved into an apartment at 1550 South Hamlin Avenue on Chicago’s West Side. Notably, President Obama was not the first “community organizer in the “Windy City.
King only lived part-time in Chicago but beat the streets often in his new neighborhood to meet his neighbors and assess the conditions of Chicago’s slums only to realize that slum living had a direct tethering to slum wages.
By March 1968, Dr. King sent a telegram to Cesar Chavez, who was fasting on behalf of farm workers in California:
“As brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and goodwill and wish continuing success to you and your members…
You and your valiant fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.”
The fruition of Dr. King’s Dream was inevitably tied to fairness in employment, so he sought to see that labor laws and labor practices were changed in this nation. Here is what he said to organize and strike workers in Memphis just days before his death.
“Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at the swankest integrated restaurant when he doesn’t even earn enough money to take his wife out to dine? What does it profit one to have access to the hotels of our cities and the hotels of our highways when we don’t earn enough money to take our family on vacation?
What does it profit one to be able to attend an integrated school when he doesn’t earn enough money to buy his children school clothes?”
“The Dream” speech was a majestic missive of ministry, but stands in constant need of a fresh recitation and remix. If King were alive today, he would dream of a day when his four little B children would join with white and brown children.
But this time, they wouldn’t just integrate a theme park; they would fight together for living wages and the security of workers worldwide. If King were alive today, he would assail the governors in Texas and Florida for their virulent attack on his dreams for his four little children and yours too! If Dr. King was here, we would March on Austin, Texas, and Tallahassee, Florida, whose Republican legislatures have “lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification,” just like the state of Alabama did under Governor George Wallace in 1963.
If King were alive today, he would castigate Black people for being more concerned with style than we are with substance. We continue to major in the minors. Dr. King would remix the words of Jay-Z. “F* hashtags and retweets, we need 140 characters in these streets! King would cringe at a new study by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies.
It predicts that by 2053 the median wealth of Blacks will be ZERO! Blacks have progressed through 246 years of enslavement, 99 years of Jim Crow Laws, 86 years of lynching, 15 years of the Civil Rights era and the evolution of the camera phone to help us with police abuse that has never stopped. Sixty years later, and we are complaining about the price of hamburgers or cannot afford one!
This article was initially authored by Vincent L. Hall and published in the Texas Metro News.