On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech.
In it, he shared his vision that “all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands.”
I would argue strongly that 48 years later, the speech is still a dream, and yes, we have made progress.
Many of us never dreamed that we would have an opportunity to see a president named Barak Obama in the White House; we have also seen many of our predominately white places of higher learning increase their enrollment with minority students; yet the reality is, we are a long way from achieving justice and equal opportunity.
We still have far too many of our brothers and sisters living in poverty; there is a high rate of unemployment; and we are not getting equal treatment in our judicial system. For many, justice and mercy are never extended.
This weekend we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and there will be many services and events marking his birthday.
As I write this article, I am looking forward to going to Washington, D.C., with members of our congregation to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
I am going with my family, for I want my youngest grandson at an early age, to know about this committed humanitarian.
I firmly believe that all children, particularly African-American children, should have the opportunity to know our struggle, history and of those persons like Dr. King, who paid the supreme sacrifice for justice and freedom.
Unfortunately, to many it will be just a holiday and we will go back to our normal daily lives in America. Dr. King’s speech was from the heart of God, for in the book of Micah 6:8, the profit writes these words, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of these, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
I also find it amazing that as much progress as we have made in our political, social and economic areas of life, we still have not achieved the dream in our religious life. For the church is still the most segregated hour in America. That is true in the Black church as well as in the white church. Yes, the Black church was born out of necessity, but so was everything else that we have achieved. If we really want justice and equality, then it has to begin with the people of God. I pray the time will come when Dr. King’s vision, of all God’s children, Black men and white men, Asians, Hispanics and all minorities, will be able to worship together as one family of God; suburbs and city, citizens and immigrants, walking and serving together, while loving God and serving people.
Perhaps when that happens, violence will cease, wars will end, strife will disappear, racism, classism and sexism will be erased, and we will live out the dream, and life will become so much more fulfilling.
Our children and our children’s children will grow up in a world where they can achieve their full potential and the walls of bigotry will come down. We will then be able to say those amazing words, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.”
Rev. Charles Quann is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.