Reflections on a Dreamer

TriceEdneyWireService — During the period of December-January of each year, the holidays speed through in rapid succession, leaving little time for measured thought and peaceful contemplation. First, comes the joy of Christmas and the associated effort to demonstrate our love of friends and relatives with the lavish gifts. This is followed by the hope that comes with the birth of a New Year. We have an overindulgent celebration, as well as the annual exercise of making promises to ourselves called New Year’s Resolutions. Soon after we make them, we routinely break them!

It isn’t until mid-January that most of us slow down and begin to think about the true “meaning and value of life,” the significance of the events we’ve thus far experienced, and our aspirations for the future. For many of us, this contemplative assessment of what life really holds is intrinsically connected to the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 2013 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice brought an even greater significance to my reflections.

In the keynote speech of his life ("I Have a Dream"), Dr. King addressed the issues of racial discrimination and injustice of his time and of the preceding 100 years. For those of us old enough to have witnessed the first March, it seems almost inconceivable that 50 years could pass so quickly. Although significant progress has been made, we still find ourselves mired in many of the same challenges of which Dr. King originally spoke.

Since the election of Barack Obama as the first Black President, many argue that this has signaled the end of the systemic racism and discrimination that we know has hobbled us in nearly every facet of our lives. It’s suggested that President Obama's election ushered in a post-racial period in America. We can acknowledge that while the most egregious acts of racial violence may have lessened, we have entered into a period of reactionary legislative, judicial and economic violence that threatens to return us to a condition of servitude. As I use the word lessened, I am painfully aware of the recent violence against Black people in Texas, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere.

Dr. King spoke dramatically of trials and tribulations from which we emerged. Like most of us of that generation, we stood as witnesses to never-ending, daily injustices. In our eagerness to shield our children from the trauma of racism and the memories of disparagement that can cast a shadow over confidence and self-esteem, we stopped teaching the lessons of running the race in the dust of last place. Yes, many of our children are succeeding, but too many don’t have an appreciation for moving through the dust of the rear to the fresh air at the front of the pack. Too many adults have not made ourselves as available as we should to show them the way.

As was the case when Dr. King uttered the words "I have a dream", our struggle continues. We must prepare for course corrections and adjustments to even the best of plans. Our history has shown us capable of overcoming the most horrendous obstacles.

Many who control public policy work to the destruction of our dreams, with the intent of forcing us to surrender. The clarity provided by the experience of our history says that a plan is in place to erode confidence in our President and in those individuals and institutions we have come to trust in the protection of our rights.

Our dreams are our own and their realization isn’t based upon the agreement of those external to us. We’re the masters of our fate and will ultimately determine when we can finally utter the words, "Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

(Dr. Williams is Chair of the National Congress of Black Women. 202/678-6788.)

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Reflections on a Dreamer