Pursuing Dr. King’s Dream Fifty Years Later

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Though the words of Dr. King still resonate with many of us, fifty years later it is clear we have fallen short of achieving that dream.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the course of American history with his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, uniting the country in the pursuit of jobs, economic opportunity and equality. The speech, invoking the inalienable rights inscribed in our nation’s Declaration of Independence and celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, was delivered to over 250,000 people after they descended the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to demand social justice and equality for all.

Few could have anticipated the size or impact of the march on that hot August day. It ignited the Civil Rights Movement in America and attracted global attention, shedding light on the rampant social injustices throughout the nation. It encouraged Americans to look ahead to a day when people of all ethnicities could equally pursue the “American Dream.”

Many of us know all too well that the fight isn’t over. Prejudices persist and social injustices remain. African-American males are incarcerated at a rate higher than any other group in America, growing income inequality in the U.S. and California leave many unable to support their families, and women on average earn less than their male counterparts for equal work. Tragically, we continue to mourn the young men of color who have lost their lives simply because they were falsely perceived as dangerous.

We must continue to pursue the world Dr. King and his fellow activists envisioned when they organized the largest civil rights march in our nation’s history. It’s time to re-examine our values and come together in pursuit of social justice and economic equality. We can no longer blindly accept the status quo. As Dr. King reminded us -- “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Together, we must be diligent about identifying the social injustices that persist around us and rather than engage in violent demonstrations that hurt us all, use nonviolent resistance to empower our communities.

Although some progress has been made to address these important issues in cities such as Oakland, there is still much work to be done.  As Chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay and a member of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California, I have worked to bring stakeholders together to determine the best practices to help our young people, particularly in communities of color, live successful and happy lives free of carnage and trauma.

I too dream of a day when we are not judged based on our ethnicity, faith or socio-economic status. We have made great strides, but as a nation we are still crippled by injustices. I look forward to working with you and for you in the ongoing struggle for justice.