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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembered: Where Do We Go From Here…

January 16, 2012

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.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Deonte permalink
    January 16, 2012 1:50 pm

    So what actually would the author want to be an equitable wage? For how many? To raise the $9/hr. to $15, $20? To lower the $58/hr rate to…? Should we assume it is just to raise the bottom rate to what one person can reasonably live/survive on? That sounds about $15: $15x 40=$600×4=$2400x12mos=$28,800/yr. Plus good social benefits.
    And do we aim to just raise the lowest rate while not taxing or taking from the highest? Or redistribute how much? How do that? Can you imagine the impact, to use an extreme example, on DC if just about everyone had a wage of $25-35/hr? Most of the high end restaurants would close. Taxi traffic would plummet. Real estate? Krrrash! Pros and cons. But more equity for sure.
    So how would this work? Would that $15 rate enable people to build up assets over time? Don’t count on it for 1-2 generations.
    The income difference between the high end haves and the low end have-nots is huge. But the assets gap is even more staggering. It is in assets that people have greater true security and opportunity over time.
    More equity is needed. More capacity to survive and thrive is needed. But how get there?

  2. Tamara permalink
    January 17, 2012 1:27 am

    Thanks, Terri, for reminding us that Dr. King wasn’t a dreamer. He was a visionary who worked to make his vision real. Kudos to you and the Community Foundation for your leadership to put race on the table.

  3. Jacquelyn Brown permalink
    January 17, 2012 9:14 pm

    Thank you Teri for your apt description of Dr. King and his legacy. I’ll add that the Occupy Movements with their tent encampments remind me of Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign and having a tent city on the National Mall to bring attention to economic inequity. So I do agree with your assessment that he would have definitely supported the Occupy movments, as well as the anti-war movements being the peacekeeper that he was.


  1. Terri Freeman reflects on King legacy…Virginia youth poverty is highest in more than a decade…Is D.C. illegally underfunding charters? [News, 1.17.11] « Washington Grantmakers Daily

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