‘I have a Dream’, 57 Years On and Why We Must Carry on Imagining the Dream
- Kamran Mofid
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28 August 1963
A Call for Justice and a Call for the US to Act Righteously
57 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., racial equality in the US or for that matter around the world, remains an elusive goal.
Much remains to be done, and thus, we must carry on imagining the dream until the dream comes true.
I offer this in honour of Black History Month
'I have a Dream’: 'it's a flame that still burns'
The civil-rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on Aug. 28, 1963,
on the Mall in Washington, D.C. AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Imagining the Dream: "So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream."…
"The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
'I have a Dream’: 'it's a flame that still burns'
An engraving at the Lincoln Memorial marks the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his 1963
'I Have a Dream' speech. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered on 28 August 1963 by Martin Luther King, Jr. before a crowd of some 250,000 people at the 1963 March on Washington. Weaving in references to the country’s Founding Fathers and the Bible, King used universal themes to depict the struggles of African Americans before closing with an improvised riff on his dreams of equality, justice and freedom. The eloquent speech was immediately recognized as a highlight of the successful protest, and has endured as one of the signature moments of the civil rights movement.
‘I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that…one day right there in Alabama, little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’
King’s improvisations seemed to strike a chord with the crowd, many of whom called out words of encouragement. The speech built to its emotional conclusion, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
‘I Have a Dream', 57 Years on. But, in America today: 'I can't breathe'
Drawing by Steve Sac, Star Tribune
America's Raging Fire Against Racism, Inhumanity, Poverty, Inequality, oppression and Injustice
Police and protestors clashed on Tuesday (25 August 2020) night in Kenosha, Wisconsin,
that were sparked by the shooting and grave wounding of Jacob Blake.
KENOSHA, WI – AUGUST 24:
A car attempts to drive through a crowd of protestors on August 24, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This is the second night of rioting after the shooting of Jacob Blake, 29, on August 23. Blake was shot multiple times in the back by Wisconsin police
officers after attempting to enter into the drivers side of a vehicle. Brandon Bell/Getty Images/AFP
Thus, given the continuation of the struggles for justice, equality and freedom, dreams of anti-racism and hopes for racial equality and harmony as highlighted by movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, it seems that we still desperately need to keep the flame and the passion of ‘I have a Dream’ alive, so that one day, hopefully, in the not too distant future, Martin Luther King’s ‘Dream’ can be realised at last: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
To remember, recall and honour that wonderful day, 28 August 1963, I can do no better than recall a few selected pieces from our GCGI.INFO archives. We must still keep dreaming, remain positive, be hopeful, don’t despair and walk on.
Dr. King’s dream is also my dream, our dream and the GCGI’s dream. Thus, with hope for a better future and joining with the spirit of Dr. King and all who have struggled across the generations for justice, equality, freedom and racial harmony, we will carry on and live the spirit of “I have a dream” speech and Dr. King’s Interconnected World.
...And this is why the struggle and dream must continue
‘Over the last two centuries, prominent Americans have described the United States as an "empire of liberty," a "shining city on a hill," the "last best hope of Earth," the "leader of the free world," and the "indispensable nation." These enduring tropes explain why all presidential candidates feel compelled to offer ritualistic paeans to America’s greatness... Most statements of "American exceptionalism" presume that America’s values, political system, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. They also imply that the United States is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage…’
MLK’s children on their father's life and George Floyd's death
Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King with their children Martin Luther King III,
Dexter and Yolanda. Photo: AP Via The Guardian
Martin and Bernice King have continued their father’s legacy, protesting for civil rights. They discuss Black Lives Matter, their ongoing grief and the upcoming March on Washington
‘When footage of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, under the knee of a white police officer, was beamed around the world, Bernice King wept. She was five years old in 1968 when her father, Martin Luther King Jr, was killed by an assassin’s bullet on a hotel balcony in Memphis. She was a year younger than Floyd’s daughter Gianna.
“You feel the pain of the loss,” she says over a video call, a framed photograph of her father on the mantelpiece behind her. “Because you know what it did to you, too. And you can only imagine what it’s doing to that little girl.”
It is easy to trace the lines from the US’s latest reckoning on race and police violence to the civil rights struggles of the 60s. Floyd’s death started the largest wave of protest in the US since King’s murder. But for some, the connections are as much lived reality as a point of historic reference.
Bernice’s elder brother, Martin Luther King III, was 10 at the time his father was killed. In June this year, he bowed his head in front of Floyd’s golden casket during a memorial service. He also reflects on the children left behind. “When you are grieving, you appreciate all the love that the world provides for you,” he says from his living room in Atlanta, in front of a large image of his mother, Coretta Scott King. “But, at some point, most people go back to their homes and you’re all alone, grieving by yourself. And you have to figure out how to navigate through the terrible pain.”
In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, as buildings burned in cities across the country, familiar arguments invoking King’s legacy of nonviolence and civil disobedience were used to question the validity of mostly peaceful protests. Republican senators quoted King’s words out of context and memes circulated with images juxtaposing peaceful marches in the 60s and looting in 2020. A pundit on Fox News said the unrest was “definitely not about black lives”.
King’s children are used to this rewriting of history. Since his death, he has been repositioned in the mainstream American imagination as a unifying figure who defeated the segregationist south with peaceful nonviolence, driven by dreams of a future where his four children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”...-Continue to read
28 August 2020
A Call for Justice and a Call for the US to Act Righteously
'We're not taking it any more':
Jacob Blake's family lead Washington rally
Photo: The Guardian
'Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington DC on Friday, demanding criminal justice reform and voting rights following a summer of protests against systemic racism and against police treatment of Black people.
The Get Your Knee Off Our Necks march, announced in early June following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, also marks the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I have a dream” speechurging racial equality.'...Continue to read
This is how Shakespeare shows us what it means to be human in this age of heightened racism, xenophobia and intolerance of ‘others’:
relevant today as it was 400 years ago
William Shakespeare's handwritten plea for refugees, strangers and foreigners
‘Wretched strangers’: Shakespeare’s plea for tolerance towards immigrants in Sir Thomas More*
‘Wretched strangers': Part of The Book of Sir Thomas More, handwritten by William Shakespeare. Photo: British Library
‘This is part of the only surviving play script to contain Shakespeare's handwriting. Three pages of the manuscript, ff. 8r, 8v and 9r, have been identified as Shakespeare’s, based on handwriting, spelling, vocabulary and the images and ideas expressed.
The play is about the life of Sir Thomas More, the Tudor lawyer and polymath who was sentenced to death for refusing to recognise Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church in England. The work was initially written by Anthony Munday between 1596 and 1601. The Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, whose role included stage censorship, refused to allow Sir Thomas More to be performed, perhaps because he was worried that the play’s depiction of riots would provoke civil unrest on the streets of London.
After the Queen’s death in 1603, Shakespeare was brought in to revise the script, along with three other playwrights. Shakespeare’s additions include 147 lines in the middle of the action, in which More is called on to address an anti-immigration riot on the streets of London. He delivers a gripping speech to the aggressive mob, who are baying for so-called ‘strangers’ to be banished:
You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam
To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, say now the King,
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers, would you be pleas’d
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That breaking out in hideous violence
Would not afford you an abode on earth.
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, not that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But charter’d unto them? What would you think
To be us’d thus? This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity.
More relies on human empathy to make his point: if the rioters were suddenly banished to a foreign land, they would become ‘wretched strangers’ too, and equally vulnerable to attack. In the words of critic Jonathan Bate: ‘More asks the on-stage crowd, and by extension the theatre audience, to imagine what it would be like to be an asylum-seeker undergoing forced repatriation.’ Though proving that More’s words were indeed written by Shakespeare is not straightforward, in their keen sympathy for the plight of the alienated and dispossessed they seem to prefigure the insights of great dramas of race such as The Merchant of Venice and Othello. Whoever wrote them had a fine ear for the way rhetoric can sway a crowd – it’s hard not to think of Julius Caesar, too – but also a sharp eye for the troubled relationship between ethnic minorities and majorities.
Tilney’s instructions to the authors can be seen in the margin of f. 3r (the first page shown here):
Leave out the insurrection wholly and the cause thereof, and begin with Sir Thomas More at the Mayor’s sessions, with a report afterwards of his good service done being Sheriff of London upon a mutiny against the Lombards – only by a short report, and not otherwise, at your own perils. E. Tilney.’-*The Book of Sir Thomas More: Shakespeare's only surviving literary manuscript
...Yes, indeed, relevant today as it was 400 years ago
The western world has become the region of international pariahs. Our policies and treatment of people fleeing persecution, war and torture are infamous for their cruelty and selfishness.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Indeed it is True: Humanity is now inhumane