Fifty-three years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a peaceful march on Washington, D.C. where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech which has since been quoted by millions and is considered one of the most effective speeches ever delivered in US history.
As we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it is imperative we pause to reflect on the historical differences and progress made since that memorable day in 1963 on the Washington Mall where hundreds of thousands listened as Martin Luther King, Jr. laid out his vision of a just, free and equal America — a vision that was soon embraced by millions of Americans regardless of race, creed or color.
Yet simply embracing King’s vision, did not and does not make it so. And today in 2016, as we celebrate King’s legacy of peaceful, non-violent resistance to enact social and racial justice and equality, the United States still has miles to go before we reach a truly just and equal America for all.
As MLK, Jr. stood at the podium on the Mall in 1963 and declared for all……”I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulation. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive…..”
2015 has been an especially challenging and arduous year that resulted in multiple high-profile deaths of black youth while in police custody. As a result, law enforcement relations with African American communities are low across the US, and much attention is now devoted to enhancing community relationships with police, particularly in urban cities. The epidemic of violence continues in major US cities.
I believe that if Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, he would find the premise violence is contagious consistent with his teachings and that a health approach based on detection and interruption, individual behavior and community norm change provides the answer to effectively eradicating violence and creating a peaceful, just, healthy society with racial equity as its cornerstone.
In short, fifty-three years after MLK Jr.’s historic ‘March on Washington’ significant progress has occurred; yet the US continues to grapple with achieving his vision for racial equity and justice through peaceful, non-violent resistance. “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like mighty waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” King declared.