Fifty years after civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, his daughter Bernice King will stand before her own pulpit during the anniversary of the historic March on Washington.
As the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (also known as The King Center), King will participate in a series of events starting on August 21, ending with the anniversary on August 28, in Washington, D.C.
Several leading figures in politics and activism will join King in observing this solemn occasion. President Barack Obama will give remarks on August 28 at the “Let Freedom Ring” closing ceremony organized by King, which will include a bell-ringing ceremony commemorating Dr. King’s memorable address. His daughter will also co-host a “Jobs, Justice, Peace & Freedom” March at the Lincoln Memorial with her brother Martin Luther King, III and Rev. Al Sharpton on August 24. The National Action Network, NAACP, and other leading labor, education, media, and civil rights organizations will co-convene the event. Among those scheduled to attend are the families of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till, Congressman John Lewis, and other leading politicians and organizers. A full list of events commemorating the 1963 March on Washington can be found on the King Center web site.
The youngest King offspring took a few moments to share her thoughts on the current state of race relations leading into these days of memorial occasions.
theGrio: What are your thoughts as the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington approaches? How close are we to fulfilling your father’s dream today?
Bernice King: I hope that this will be an opportunity to see where we stand today with race relations. In light of the Voting Rights Act ruling and the Trayvon Martin situation, we still have tremendous work to do in the nation in terms of truly building a love community, where people are respected and valued for their character and what they bring to the table, and not merely by external definitions. In particular, I think for those of us in the African-American community, this is a time for us to really realize that my father’s message was about the state of the black community. If you put it in the context of one hundred years later, the “Negro” at that time, is still not free. He was speaking for a people, and not so much a person or a segment of a people, speaking about all of us in the African-American community.
When we look at the state of our community today and society, we still get half the good, and twice the bad. There’s still great disparity when we talk about health, the environment, the justice system, education, and the list can go on and on. While some of us have progressed, and it’s to be applauded, we’ve got to come up with a plan of action that will enable the masses of our people to progress, and that’s where we are. I think this 50th anniversary is a wake-up call to really connect in the freedom struggle, not just to react in moments of crises, and to recognize what my mother said – freedom is never really won. Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.
While we have been conditioned historically to act in crises, we have to find a way for our people to be summoned for day-to-day action. We need people tied together in long-term relationships in the struggle for freedom and justice because it is an ongoing struggle. There’s no such thing as “we have arrived.” We are arriving, but we have not arrived. Like the little kid said, are we there yet? No.