Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr's - famous 'I Have a Dream Speech, still resonating deep into the American psyche. The clergyman was a prominent leader of the civil rights movement, whose great progress has made him an icon for human rights causes across the globe.When President Kennedy brought the Civil Rights Bill before Congress in 1963, King made a speech on television on 11 June, in which he said:-
' The Negro baby born in America today regardless of the section of the nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day; one thirs as much chance completing college; one third as much chance of becoming a professional man; twice as much chance of becomming unemployed; about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is even shorter; and the progress of earning only half as much.'
In an attempt to persuade Congress to pass Kennedy's proposed legislation, King and other civil rights leaders organised the famous March on Washington for jobs and freedom. The march 50 years ago was a huge success with estimmates of the crowd varying between 250,000 to 400,000. King was the final speaker and outlined his vision of American racial harmony in a historic display of oratory, in the style of a fervent Baptist preacher.
Just months before he was assasinated, Dr King, was to take these ideas further, whilst organising support for the "Poor Peoples Campaigns," aimed at supplementing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a full measure of economic and human rights for America's poor, arguing that African-Americans and poor whites were natural allies and if they worked together they could help change society.
But 50 years laters, despite some victory's and gains, the march for equality is unfinished, and for some the dream is unrealised, and as tens of thousands of people marched to Dr King's memorial last Saturday, some pledged that his dream included equality for gays, latinos, the poor and the disabled, and we must remember our modern failures and wrongs, taking for instance, the way an all-white jury in Florida cleared George Zimmerman of murdering the black teengager Tayvon Martin, the persistently high unemployment among America's black population, twice that of white Americans.
We cannot let go of Dr King's dream, because, surely it is everybody's dream, we must continuously try to change the world, remember those in the U.S.A fighting for jobs and freedom, a land still lanquishing to find itself, while perpetrating injustice, discrimination and inequality.A country that imprisons more of their citizens than any other country in the world. African Americans in particular, though they are 12% of the population, make up 38% of the state prison population, despite their crimes being no different from their white and hispanic counterparts.
Despite much positive change, the struggle continues, and we must continue pushing and shoving and let freedom ring.
' Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today,my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold those truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons
of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Missisipi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
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.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governeor having his lips dripping with the words of 'interposition' and 'nulification' - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
i have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and 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, and this is the faith that Igo back to the South with.
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.
And this will be the day - this will be the day when all of God's children, will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my father 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.
And 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 snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Missisippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from evrrevery 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, Protestents 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 Almight, we are free at last!
Martin Luther King Jr - I Have A Dream Speech
August 28, 1963
Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C