Have youth deferred King's dream?


January 15, 1994|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of equality and harmony. But nearly 26 years after his assassination, the civil rights leader's vision is not perceived with the same clarity, especially by the young, judging from a local TV special to air tonight.

WMAR-TV anchor Stan Stovall talks to three generations of black leaders in "The Status of the Dream," a King birthday special to be broadcast at 8 p.m. on Channel 2.

The show awkwardly blends archival footage of civil rights actions of the past -- including such notable Baltimore demonstrations as the 1963 protest at Gwynn Oak Park -- with recent panel discussions led by Mr. Stovall.

The hour show often presents just talking heads. But by its conclusion, the program has shown a gulf between the generations that may pose a challenge as difficult as integrating amusement parks and lunch counters.

"They aren't familiar with what preceded this particular time," says Enolia P. McMillan, former president of local and national branches of the NAACP, speaking of today's young people.

Another older leader, former Circuit Court Judge Robert Watts, worries that "separate but equal seems to be what they're thinking now," referring to college campuses where minority students have sought their own dormitories.

However, George Collins, former editor of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, contends that "right now we have more educated young black people in America than we've ever had . . . people capable of taking the reins of leadership."

He complains a "dinosaur mentality" among older civil rights leaders has failed to give younger people their chance.

"The most difficult issue," according to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, "is the new slavery of drugs and guns."

A 15-year-old student from Pikesville High School, Melissa Gray, sharply addresses the perceived disappointment in her generation, the so-called "lost generation," as Mr. Stovall puts it.

"The only way we're going to be saved is if someone says 'They're not lost, they're just undiscovered,' " she asserts.

But a 23-year-old University of Maryland medical student, Kent Blake, reluctantly concludes that his age group generally lacks "respect, concern and moral obligation."

Clearly, the topic of "The Status of the Dream" is too large to cover in a single hour show. But the program poses some important questions.


Another locally produced TV special honoring Dr. King's birthday airs tonight.

"Martin Luther King Jr.: The March to Freedom," can be seen at 7 p.m. on WBAL-TV (Channel 11). The nationally syndicated show, produced by WBAL last spring, was first seen in April.

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