It’s been 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the nation’s most famous speech of peace and justice, but if Dr. King was alive today could he look around proudly and say that his dream of peace, unity and justice has truly been fulfilled?
Well, not exactly, said Rev. Dr. Clementine Mays, pastor of Poplar Springs CME Church, who said even though King would be delighted to see some broken down racial barriers today and signs of unification things just aren’t quite where King dreamed of them to be.
Mays, guest speaker at Monday’s MLK Celebration in West Point, asked this question to the audience, some of whom shook their heads in sadness of how even in the year 2013 the world is still torn by broken race relations and inequalities, Mays said.
“When will the barriers of racism and bitterness end?” Mays asked the attentive crowd. “Here we are in 2013, and some things are still the same. We have not really embraced the dream. The perfect world that Dr. King envisioned – it has not yet been realized. We’re still in a world where men are still judged by the color of their skin. We’re still in a world where we are being locked up in mass numbers...We talk about getting better; we have not gotten better yet...We live in desegregated neighborhoods, but for the most part we are still separated from neighbors of different races. Our schools, for the most part, have been desegregated, but our hearts have not been integrated.”
Mays said part of the reason she feels the nation has not moved forward as one unified body is that men and women who share the same race often degrade each other, putting down their own people for doing something at an achievement level and beating them down with hurtful words that say because of who they are they will never amount to anything.
This verbal battering within a race of people has to end, she said, and the negative mentality of blacks, whites and people of all race have to change, she said – otherwise, the dream of MLK will never be fulfilled.
The end of Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech is what Mays said people most often refer to when they think of him, but the essence of the speech is sometimes overlooked.
“In the middle of his speech he talked about social injustice,” she said. “In the middle of his speech he addresses social conditions. He addressed those things that were going wrong in all of our lives, not just the black man’s life but in everybody’s life. He addressed the poverty that was going on in the United States...Many of the things we were going through (showed) that we were less than and not equal to.”
She encouraged the audience to do what they can to make a change in their community to unify the races in honor of King and in honor of the mission of Jesus Christ to ensure that all people, no matter who they are, are saved and provided fairly with life’s necessities.
Before the message, King was celebrated through several performances by local students and local church youth groups who got the crowd on their feet as the youth danced and sang to uplifting, motivational gospel music.
As the audience, some of whom marched the streets of West Point before the program, settled in to join in the MLK celebration Ward 1 Selectman gave greetings on behalf of the cit of West Point and expressed what King means to him.
“As I reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King the one thing that stood out is that he was not only a man of great words but also a man of action,” Bobo said. “In this life people say a lot of things and there are a lot of talkers but very few doers. Dr. King was one who if he didn’t like the situation that was occurring at the time he caused something to happen.”