If you live in the US, you’ve heard the story of Martin Luther King, Jr, Civil Rights leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner, historical icon, and dreamer. We all know the refrain “I have a dream.” Some heard these words live. Many more of us learned about it in our history books.
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 these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
You probably know the most famous parts of the speech. They’re beautiful and inspiring. And also, when read today, a little sad because it’s a dream that still hasn’t been fully actualized, even 54 years later. (If you are someone who thinks it has, I suggest perhaps reading a book like Americanah before you make up your mind about the state of racial disparities in the US.)
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.
If you’ve never read Dr. King’s full speech, you can read it here. I recently re-read it. It’s as inspiring as ever. But, something else struck me about it on this reading. In his speech, Dr. King talks about a great America.
…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 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.
This is the dream of a truly great nation. It’s not a nation that tries to suppress free speech, or creates registries of people, or ignores hate or science or facts. A great nation denounces hate, puts peaceful coexistence ahead of money, embraces progress, and works to stop injustice and inequality.
Dr. King gave us the foundation for greatness. He gave us the dream. I still believe in his dream. Now it’s our responsibility to finish the building.
Yesterday, on January 15, which is King’s actual birthday, writers and poets around the US put another brick in the wall with #writersresist (http://www.writersresist.org/), protests to support freedom of expression and democracy. As a writer, I think these ideals are very important to me and showing support for them on King’s actual birthday made these events even more poignant. And this Saturday, January 21st, thousands of people will march on Washington for “the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
I believe to honor King we must emulate him. He showed us that peaceful protest is not just a 1st amendment right (which it is and sometimes people need to be reminded of that). Peaceful protest can make change.
First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is why as a writer and a human being who cares about all people regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, or status, I support writers resist. This is why I will be at the march with my daughter and my husband and my friends this Saturday. Because I believe we must resist until King’s dream is fully realized and we are truly a great nation.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
#writersresist #writeourdemocracy #womensmarch