Much too late yesterday, the importance of the day-- a holiday celebrating Martin Luther King-- hit me. How could I ignore this day? How could I forget the importance of honoring King's life and work?
Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, was a driving force in the push for racial equality in the 1950's and the 1960's. Thrust into the national spotlight in Birmingham where he was arrested and jailed for marching and protesting non-violently, King organized a massive march on Washington, DC on August 28, 1963. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he evoked the name of Lincoln in his "I Have a Dream" speech. The speech is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation and prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The next year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
One line in the "I Have a Dream" speech reverberates into my family: "I have a dream that my four little 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."
The day after Martin Luther King day when businesses, government offices, and schools across the nation closed in honor of his life, I remember to give thanks to this man. In 2007 when my grandsons arrived from Liberia, they came to a different country than the one in which Martin Luther King was born. They came to a country that King helped to change for the better. I have no illusions that racism is a thing of the past, but I know that because of Dr. King, there is a much greater chance that Leon and Aliou will be judged by who they are rather than by the color of their skin. I know that they live in a nation where an African American man is running for president—a man whose father was born in the nation of their birth. These are remarkable times in American.
Leon and Aliou will turn 5 next week. I have a dream that by the time they are turning 60, like me, the color lines of this country will be dissolved. I dream that they will remember to give thanks to Martin Luther King and Barak Obama for breaking through barriers that once stood in the way of people of color.