Fifty years after his father told Americans and the world that “I have a dream,” the son of Martin Luther King Jr. has a message for We Day: It’s our dream too.
“The dream remains unfulfilled, but it is still very much alive,” Martin Luther King III says.
Mr. King, 56, carries on his father’s legacy (and that of his mother, the late Coretta Scott King) as head of an international not-for-profit organization called Realizing the Dream. He says he “is both humbled and honoured to serve as an ambassador of his parents’ legacy of non-violent social change.”
Similar to We Day, Realizing the Dream’s mission is “to champion freedom, justice and equality by working to eliminate poverty, build community and foster peace through non-violence.”
Mr. King is participating in We Day this week just after the 50th anniversary of his father’s “I have a dream” speech from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington – one of the most famous and event-changing speeches in world history.
Dr. King’s speech on Aug. 28, 1963, was the high point of the March on Washington for jobs and freedom, which drew an unprecedented 250,000 people and was instrumental in breaking many of the barriers of segregation in the United States and leading to civil rights and voting rights legislation.
A lot of progress was made after his father’s speech, Mr. King said recently, but the work is far from complete. He believes that his father would be proud that Americans elected (and re-elected) their first African-American president, Barack Obama.
But Mr. King is also concerned that racial profiling is still a fact for too many young people and that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is getting bigger, not smaller.
But should the messages of Dr. King and his son matter to Canadians and participants in We Day? They should, if the words of Dr. King himself four decades ago can be recalled.
In 1967, the year before he was assassinated and in the midst of his epochal struggle for civil rights, Dr. King came to Canada to deliver that year’s annual CBC Massey Lecture.
“Canada is not merely a neighbour … ,” he said. “Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star.”
African-American slaves, “denied education, dehumanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave if he survived the horrors of the journey could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together … standing today in Canada I am linked with the history of my people and its unity with your past.”
According to Martin Luther King III, it’s up to the new generation – the We Day generation – to keep the dream alive until it becomes reality.