A Dream Deferred: Reflecting on Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech 57 Years Later
Aug 28, 2020 08:20AM
By Nana Ama Addo
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a sugary sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
Harlem, by Langston Hughes
The earth elegantly spins on its axis, and on the ground, despite our self acclaimed title as the ‘Most Evolved Animals,’ isms repeatedly orbit through American society, plaguing a human experience. How do you transform an inequality that is embedded in the blueprint of a society?
Racism, along with COVID-19 and other intersectional oppressions, have presented communities with a double, triple and quadruple pandemic. While the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legendary ‘I Have a Dream’ speech settles among us, violence on Black bodies begs the question—Are we moving towards Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality, or have we ‘integrated into a burning building’ like Dr. King feared?
On August 28th, 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in DC, King and other change makers promoted Black economic and civil empowerment to combat American racism. In this speech, Dr. King prophesied that a future where Black people in the United States have equal opportunity to job opportunities, freedom from violence and financial prosperity, would come into fruition.
Still, the countless and nameless victims of racial injustice and inequality are a testament to the stubborn stains of racism in the fabric of the country’s flag.
When a racist police officer with a vengeance sat on George Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes and 46 seconds in a public lynching, civilians around the country, and globe, hit the streets in an explosion of protest. The violent backlash these reform seekers face is an international déjà vu: the Civil Rights Movement is repeating itself. The progress being made in legislation is coming slowly, like the pace of a snail crossing the Great Wall of China.
While Breyonna Taylor lie sleeping, dreaming of her future, when George Floyd struggled to feed his loved ones, dreaming of a better tomorrow, and as Jacob Blake fights for his life in the ICU, paralyzed but still dreaming for a long life, a system of injustice rears its ugly head, making a mockery of the sacrifices Dr. King and those like him made.
Is a mass exodus the answer? Sometimes I wonder if Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or Huey P. Newton would still be alive if they had repatriated to Africa.
There is no perfect place on earth, but some of the African countries are safer places to live. If we bring our intellect and strong desire for change, we can build something greater for ourselves and truly be judged “not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.” Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya are some of the African countries that descendants of the diaspora are returning to. It may be helpful to reconsider your options.
We salute the people fighting for justice on the streets, in the education system and in other facets of society. There are many ways to campaign for change. One thing is for sure—economic power will give us a foundation on which to stand.
Thank you Dr. King for your unimaginable sacrifices. As we continue the fight for freedom in our own special way, we remember your words: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Visit her storytelling brand at www.asieduasimprint.blog, and connect with her creative agency on Instagram: @chitheagency.