After 27 Years, King's Vision Still Inspires

January 20, 1991|By Carl O. Snowden

Twenty-seven years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of freedom for all Americans. Twenty-seven years later, the power of his vision continues to inspire us to keep on dreaming.

Ten years ago, Harvey Martini Jr., executive director of the YMCA, and I met for lunch and decided to hold an annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in honor of the dreamer. Now, each year, the YMCA, NAACP, Community Action Agency and numerous churches and civic groups commemorate his birthday.

Each year, we pause, ponder and discuss Dr. King's dream and his legacy. Each year, we measure our accomplishments by that powerful dream.

In our county, we have three elected African-American officials, two African-American members of the county's Board of Education and one African-American judge.

In Annapolis, we passed landmark legislation denying alcoholic beverage licenses to private clubs that discriminate against people, based on their color, race or gender. No one needs to guess where Dr. King would have stood on such legislation.

The struggle that Dr. King was engaged in, gave his life for, was: racial equality, economic parity . . . and peace.

Dr. King understood the importance of challenging the status quo. He understood, as did Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass,

that power concedes nothing without demand; it never did and it never will.

Dr. King once said, "Something began to say to me, 'He who passively accepts evil is asmuch involved in it as he who helped to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.' When oppressed people willingly accept their oppression they only serve to give the oppressor a convenient justification for his acts . . . so in order to be true to God, a righteous man has no alternative but to refuse to cooperate with an evil system."

This was the legacy of Dr. King. He challenged the oppressed to stand up! He understoodthat when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, it forced all Americans of good will to stand up. It forces us -- whites, blacks, Jews,Muslims, Christians -- to either practice what we preach or preach what we practice.

Therefore, it is appropriate that each year, as we pause to honor Dr. King, our county residents measure our accomplishments by his dream. Are we providing equal and quality education to our youth? Is equity an issue? Do our board and commissions representa cross section of our county? Are our elected officials truly committed to Dr. King's dream? Does the media in its editorials and stories portray us fairly and comprehensively?

I loved Dr. King. He always understood that we are really moved by our dreams. Let us keep oureyes on the prize. As we approach the last decade of the 20th century, we must continue our struggle for peace and freedom.

Dr. King'sdream for African Americans has been scarred by the escalating drugviolence in our communities. We have the moral responsibility to stop the killings! No one will save us, for us, but us. Dr. King once said, "Only when it gets dark enough can you see the stars."

Now, more than ever, we need leaders who see the "stars," who help us measure our progress not by token appointments or hollow celebrations, but by the "dream."

Remember the dream: ". . . when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to say 'Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last.' "

There are many ways to honor Martin Luther King Jr. However, when we struggle for social justice and peace, we honor his legacy.

"La Luta Continua," which means that the struggle continues.

Carl O. Snowden is the Democratic alderman fromWard 5 in Annapolis.

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