My man Martin. He was the definition of “powerful” as it pertains to whipping up Black votes and stirring up some GOOD TROUBLE back in his time, and as he said in that candid speech on that faithful day in Washington D.C. on August 28th, 1963, I Have A Dream. It might as well have been his John Hancock on the bill Lyndon Johnson signed into law, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, because it was all of his hard work, organizing power, and efforts, to which the FBI assassinated him for. I feel like I’m a part of Martin’s dream. I see myself as a bit of Chairmen’s Fred Black Panther Party and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference members. I use my voice for change, for good trouble, maybe sometimes a little too much trouble, but speaking truth to power in 2022 feels like my man Martin….never even existed. I mean, what kind of crap are we even talking about right now, ACCESS TO VOTING RIGHTS!??! Cue my girl Stacey Abrams. She has been this generation’s version of Dr. King’s public fight to demand Black access to the southern ballots. I do tons of history about America, in my pursuits of understanding and educating Black America. I really am not sure which tribe I come from but here, we don’t even have time to go back to learn, to hear the stories of our truth, to find whatever it was that was stolen from Africans who were brought to America through slave migration because we are still fighting to be free. Y’all know we just got Juneteenth in 2021 right. Lincoln has been dead for decades.
We know Black Lives Don’t Matter here, which is why I yell it from the rooftops, we have to continue to fight with our voice, like Martin, and like Stacey. We can’t let them take away the rights our ancestors died by. Martin is an ancestor too, like my friend John Lewis, who’ve I never actually met, but I know we’d have a great conversation. John was outspokenly brave. I see that in myself. I think the historical education I value which I’ve learned to hang my hat on, and my Instagram posts as well honestly, is one of the greatest weapons against challenging ignorance. We can use our minds as a weapon. There is a lot to unpack during the Reconstruction Era, where Lincoln planned to create Freedmen Bills to govern the newly freed Black citizens of the south, but he was assassinated. Many Black Americans fail to understand our current freedom lies in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, these amendments were established after the Civil War. The version of American politics we see in our current climate was established both for and against the Black slave, folks like me and you. In fact, our legal system is more powerful than our voting system only to the fault that we get to choose who writes the laws, it’s a democracy. Okay, I’m off my high horse, let’s get back to focus.
John spoke up about getting beaten down, physically, we see it depicted in the film Selma and in all of the archival footage seen during the Civil Rights movement, so I always wonder, is our generation meant to fight a different TYPE of battle. Maybe inward, maybe outside, and definitely at the ballot box. The saddest statement I hear as a voting rights advocate when I’m on the ground level in neighborhoods like Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens in New York City, is that “but T our votes don’t really count these politicians don’t care” to which I have a quick quipped scripted response, “so why don’t you run for office then!”. The person 9 times out of 10 just shrugs me off. But I stop, in those moments, to see if I can think of a pitch for that passerby-er, maybe they can run on a platform of homelessness, or the hunger crisis, or even one better…access to free mental health services. Maybe if we held up folks who looked UN-like a politician, but acted like a politician, maybe then the disconnect between the names on the ballot and the communities they’re intended to serve might be bridged. Maybe. This is what I plan to do about it. I took the pledge with When We All Vote, to help register one million new voters. You can join our movement here https://www.mobilize.us/forusnation/event/436690/
I want to share with you today, the text from I Have A Dream by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr:
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, Black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only.
We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.