75 degrees, in the shade, on Wednesday, August 28, 1963 and I was doing what I had been doing mostly everyday of the summer…sitting outside, complaining that there was nothing to and trying to stay out of sight of my parents so that they wouldn’t find something for me to do. We really didn’t have to worry too much about them because for the past few days their eyes were focused on the television set and the daily newspapers. The march on Washington was going on and the emotions were high, voices were loud and hearts were full of pride as my parents, grandmother, the occasional relative and family friend engaged in somewhat spirited conversation about what was transpiring.
I will be honest with you, I DIDN’T RELATE! Not to what was happening in our nation’s capital. You see I lived in this “never-neverland” where bad things like racism never happened. You may not believe me but it’s true. Yes, a child growing up in the 1950’s…in Detroit…virtually an all-white police force…75% white population…that never had to deal with racial hostility or discrimination. I can’t explain why it happened that way but it did.
But we weren’t the only ones! Our neighborhood was a melting pot of whites, Italians, Polish, Jews, Blacks and inter-racial families. We went to school together, played together and even fought each other but we never focused on each other’s ethnicity. I can remember the first time I used the “N” word, I used it very indiscriminately and called a white kid it too. I was promptly told by him not to call him that, to my amazement…I didn’t know it was to be used exclusively. I did find out that it wasn’t to be used at all. A neighbor told my mom about my indiscretion when she came home and she made an example of me for the others, just in case they needed it.
So, like I said for the most part everybody lived together and “publicly” happily got a long. What I didn’t know as a child was what my parents had to go through as they grew up and how their parents lived before them. I didn’t know anything about the fight…the struggle…all I knew was what was in our schoolbooks. American history wasn’t black history, nor was it Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Mexican to be fair. I knew nothing about what was really going on in the world. My world was “Leave It To Beaver, My Three Sons, Zorro, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Donna Reed Show, The Rifleman and Father Knows Best.” It was the Eisenhower Years and I guess I didn’t realize how bland my world was. My parents did a good job of shielding us from the hostility that existed in the world, maybe a little too well. Where many of our friends grew up in homes who’s parents had just recently escaped the hardship of living in the south, we never heard about it or was it ever discussed in front of us. That was about to change!!!
Oh, on this day it was all out there…on display, my comfy “middle-class” environ was time shifted to somewhere into the oppressed and depressed south and everybody’s voices were ringing out along with every word, every song, and every speech that was made.
So as a tribute to that day and because we are inaugurating a black president for his second term, I thought that I would re-publish in its entirety Martin Luther King’s “I Had A Dream” Speech, but then I had a thought that MLK wasn’t the only person that had a dream. Therefore, I took a look at a list of several people that throughout the history of the world that had a dream, a thought as to what freedom was and decided to share a few with you…
“A free race cannot be born of slave mothers” – Margaret Sanger
“A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you” – Ramsay Clark
“If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money it value more, it will lose that too.” – Somerset Maughman
“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it! Almighty God! I know not what course other may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” – Patrick Henry
“Is it possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America” – Molly Ivins
“No one should negotiate their dreams. Dreams must be free to flee and fly high. No government, no legislature, has a right to limit your dreams. You should never agree to surrender your dreams” – Jesse Jackson
“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of emancipation itself” – Virginia Woolf
“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring. And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! ”– Martin Luther King
So to all of the above and to everybody that sacrificed so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we share today, I want to say thank you, thank you ever so much. What I didn’t know then, I know now! Those things that I took for granted, I appreciate even more today! What I believed in then, I believe in even more today. However it is defined, freedom is essential to survival…yours and mine!
- Happy MLK and Inauguration Day! (sassncurlz.com)
- Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech [VIDEO] (k2radio.com)
- “I Have A Dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (diaryofabellemadame.com)
- Martin Luther King Jr. Speeches Still Hold Significance Today (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Were MLK To Speak Today On Freedom (ireport.cnn.com)
- The Martin Luther King, Jr. Guide to Inspirational Copy (copyblogger.com)