Each Year we ponder the same question. “Have we Progressed toward attaining the ideals set by Dr. Martin Luther King?” Each year the same answers are repeated. “Yes, but we have more work to do.” However, no one really specifies what is that “work”. Even on 01/16/17 as Martin Luther King III met with president elect Donald J. Trump, he affirmed: ‘We are a great nation, but we must become greater”. How so?
King had a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. What is… or was this American Dream to which King alluded? This dream is a the principle that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through desire, hard work, and innovation. Indeed these have been the selling points of American culture. For these ideals, millions have crossed our border to get into America–yes even today.
At the Root of King’s speech is the premise that all men were created equally.Many hours efforts to close the gap in minority communities end up being a community education seminar where we sit and learn about starting a business. It might be a new pet project or program that loans money. While these programs have their place there appears to be little follow up or mentoring to ensure the success of the people who really just need a strong network-not another program.
However, something that is remains unspoken, is the idea of network building. Thousands of African Americans have risen to become leaders in their fields. Millions more live productive lives, and have passed on wealth for generations. Despite the success, there are the intolerant people who still view African Americans as unworthy or lower than. Politically, it appears that the focus and resources are directed mainly toward stamping out these vestiges of society rather than in creating stronger networks within. Fortunately, that ideology has not hindered a lot of African American from going forward and making an impact–even if they are the “only one” in the room.King wanted whites and blacks to be able to sit together in brotherhood, and he wanted his children to no be Judged not by the color of skin but by the content of their character. We must continue to embrace our communities and build up one another, instill high character in order insure that ALL of our brothers and sisters are indeed “Progressing”.
Network building provides Access. While access to opportunity has been greatly broadened from the 1960’s, part of the “more work that needs to be done is” creating Access to resources to build productive lives is still an issue for many. Building Access includes building bridges with those who have the resources. Despite the success of many African Americans, there still remains a divide even within our own communities. I will spare you the history lesson, but access is either granted or denied based on a number of factors, and today, that can even transcend race in 2017. It could be as simple as the who you know. Who you know can be affected by: they way you speak, the way you dress, the way you present yourself, they way you look, and where you grew up. We have a tendency to stay within our own groups, talk to the same people each day, and only on special occasions, namely Christmas and Thanksgiving, to reach across the aisle and embrace others without trepidation. How often do you invite other ‘s into your home–the most intimate aspects of our lives? When all you know is only black people or only white people and the stereotypes that come with the ‘other’ group, what steps have you taken to bridge that gap. Access cannot be granted when we do not know one another. We have to reach out and bridge that divide. Only by helping one another can we start creating productive lives in the hardest hit communities.
I believe that we have come a long way. No matter the race, group identity has been vital to those who want to survive. Those who are a part of the “group” reap the benefits of knowing one another while those outside of the group flounder and are set back a generation or two. Those outside of the group with feel nothing but injustice and prejudice–even within one’s own race. But one may find peace in knowing that there are other groups that welcoming to your ideas and your way of live. They will embrace you fully. Seeking them out. Reaching across the aisle is the first step in building a productive life for yourself. Being an example to our friends and a teacher to our progeny is the second step.
Now as the nationwide marches have drawn to an end, do we continue associate with the same cliques and groups or will we be “progressive” and actually reach out to those who do not look like you to form a relationship that will break down barriers and stereotypes between each race and within one’s race. Will we open up opportunities to each others based on the content of their character. Will we help build up character within the ones whom we associate? Will we be committed to making and no simple finding a productive and happy life?
Freedom is ringing. Answer the call.