If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be both proud and disappointed in his nation.
Surely, he would be delighted to discover that 29 years after he delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech, the nation has its first elected African-American governor. Hewould be pleased to learn that the U.S. House of Representatives hasmore than 25 members of African decent.
He would be pleased that black voters in Louisiana followed his advice, when in 1965, he told his people that the most significant march they can take is to the ballot box. Surely, he would have been proud of those voters who sent David Duke and the country a message.
Yet, King also would be disappointed to learn that as a nation, we have failed to come to grips with social problems as old as the Bible and as modern as the U.S. Constitution. Issues involving fairness, justice and peace.
He would be disappointed to learn that the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, who challenged his people to ask not what the country could do for them but what they could do for the nation, has been replaced with rhetoric from President George Bush that sees quotas in everything and justice in nothing.
He would also be disappointed in his people. Disappointed to learn that more of them are dying at the hands of each other than of the Ku Klux Klan. He wouldbe hurt and saddened if he visited our prisons today. He would discover men who are in jail not for a social cause, but because they losttheir desire to struggle for social justice and have become social deviants.
In the final analysis, King was a man of tremendous hope and vision. He would have turned his disappointment into a challenge.One can almost hear him now, eloquently challenging the nation not to turn back the clock. Undoubtedly, he would be participating in somemarch, or perhaps on his birthday, he would be in some jail, refusing to surrender to racism and bigotry.
He would not want the nationto celebrate his birthday in a vacuum. Rather, he would insist that if he is to be honored, honor him by eradicating racism, eliminating poverty, inspiring our youth and remembering that our struggle is an ongoing one -- that each generation must be passed the torch of justice, that each generation has an obligation to carry on the struggle.
Thus, he would be proud of organizations like the Black Political Forum of Anne Arundel County, the NAACP, the African American-Jewish Coalition and other organizations that have kept the dream alive. Of individuals like Morris H. Blum, the Rev. Leroy Bowman, Dr. Delores Chambers and former Mayor John T. Chambers Jr.
King would be the first to ask us to examine our institutional racism in Anne Arundel County. Find it, eradicate it and move on. That's what he meant when he said, "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be ableto speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and whitemen, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!' "
A Luta Continua,the struggle for justice, freedom and peace continues in Anne Arundel County!