30 years after his death, King still gives us anwers

January 18, 1998|By Carl O. Snowden

TOMORROW, Anne Arundel Community College will host the 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski will address the audience on this event, which marks the federal observance of the birthday of Dr. King. ** Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary, Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson and other elected officials and community leaders will extend greetings. This annual breakfast recognizes the contributions that individuals in the county have made to keep the dream of Dr. King alive.

Another event also is planned for 5: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Asbury United Methodist Church, 87 West St. in Annapolis. Maryland State Police will meet with about 100 community leaders to brief them on a Ku Klux Klan rally scheduled for the state capital Feb. 7. The KKK has scheduled its demonstration to protest that Maryland celebrates "Black History Month" in February.

Thirty years after the assassination of Dr. King, we are still faced with challenges of racism. The progress in Anne Arundel County has been painfully slow.

Examples of progress

We can point, however, to numerous examples that demonstrate progress. Just last year, voters in Annapolis elected their first African-American female alderman. At the county level, blacks hold positions of superintendent of schools and chief administrative judge of the Circuit Court.

Few can argue that change has not taken place in our county. When I was growing up in Annapolis, signs read "whites" and "colored." Thanks to Dr. King and others, change has indeed taken place in our nation.

Yet, the demonstration of the Klan also indicates that problems related to race still plague our society.

Angelou and Twain

I read with great disappointment that Anne Arundel County school officials have removed from the ninth-grade English curriculum Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" because some white parents have described it as "anti-white."

Ironically, concerns about negative portrayals of African-Americans by black parents, such as in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," have received little attention. For the record, I believe in free speech and strongly support both books being read by our children.

Four years ago, when the Klan demonstrated at the State House, more than 1,000 citizens, including Mr. Glendening, marched from the Kunta Kinte plaque downtown to First Baptist Church on West Washington Street to express their opposition. The demonstration was orderly and nonviolent in the best tradition of Dr. King.

Tomorrow, we will again as a community decide how we want to address the demonstration. I suspect that a majority of citizens will express their vigorous opposition to these bigots. I intend to be on the front line in opposition to their message of hate.

Today, more than ever, we need leaders who will work to bring together our city, county and state. We need leaders who will put forward an agenda that is visionary and inclusive.

King left an answer

Many people ask, "How long will prejudice blind men and women? How long will it take to end racism in our society?"

Fortunately, Dr. King left us an answer.

"How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever," Dr. King said. "Truth crushed to the earth will rise again.

"How long? Not long, because you still reap what you sow.

"How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

In the final analysis Dr. King was not just a dreamer. He was a leader. Our nation is far better off because of his leadership. Today, if we truly want to honor Dr. King, let us begin making his dream a reality. "A Luta Continua": the struggle continues.

The writer is a former Annapolis alderman.

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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