Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembered: Where Do We Go From Here…
By Terri Lee Freeman
President, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region
Over the course of this week (January 9 – 13) I had the opportunity to participate in two very thought provoking forums that evoked the name and the spirit of Dr. King. The first was a screening of a film, The MLK Streets Project, hosted by the Black Philanthropic Alliance. The second was the annual meeting of the Consumer Health Foundation where Angela Glover-Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink presented equity as the new economic growth model.
The MLK Streets Project was developed by Straight, No Chaser Productions and One Common Unity. With a group of young people in tow, they toured many Streets, Boulevards, Avenues and Ways across this great country, named in honor of Dr. King. Regrettably, many of these streets are in a state of disrepair and generally found in segregated communities. Do they embody Dr. King’s “dream?” Absolutely not! You see, Dr. King’s “dream” wasn’t simply about judging people based on the content of their character, but achieving economic parity across racial, ethnic and gender lines. Thus providing the perfect segue to Ms. Glover-Blackwell’s definition of equity. Equity, as she defines it, is just and fair inclusion that allows everyone to reach their full potential. In the District of Columbia the lowest hourly wage of the wealthiest resident is approximately $58 per hour versus the highest hourly wage of the poorest resident, at little more than $9 per hour. Based on that piece of data alone, I don’t think we’ve achieved equity. Neither have we achieved Dr. King’s desire for economic security for all people.
So, where do we go from here? Well, for starters, how about engaging in the civic discourse and investing in the people and the places that many seem to want to forget. We can encourage our public officials to include everyone in discussions/decisions that impact our communities. I believe Dr. King would have been encouraged by the Occupy Movement and its message of economic inequality. But, he would implore those involved to define the desired outcome and set a path of action that would lead to success. This leads to my final point. Dr. King was not a dreamer, but a man of action. His goal: just and fair inclusion that would lead to economic stability.
Where do we go from here? We can either begin to create economic opportunities that allow a much larger group of people to participate and succeed or we can promote an American caste system that will surely cost more in the long run.