What the iconic “I Have A Dream” Speech means to Bee Lyric Michelle.
August 28, 1963, he had a dream. Even the idea of attempting to give my opinion on this profoundly groundbreaking, historical speech overwhelms me. In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that modified the course of history. You and I are products of that dream. I take this time today to reflect on this truly exceptional moment in history. A time that stood as a testament to what the human race could do if love and respect were not only valued but demanded. It seems a sort of mutually exclusive term to swiftly demand love. But this concept brought a nation together. To fathom this sort of selflessness I had to go back and contemplate. These groups of activists were human first. Individuals with the same flaws and sins and inconsistencies as you and I. They laid down there lives for a dream; for hope. I sit back and wonder if I would have had that sort of resilient courage and faith. What does Dr. King’s dream mean to me? I am a first generation Nigerian-American. My immigrant parents came to this country in search of education. They knew very little about what it was to be African-American but that didn’t shield them from the many hardships they faced only forty years ago based solely on the color of their skin and not the content of their character. For once a person of African decent enters this country through birth or immigration an instant weight is immediately placed on them.
This country has been built on the backs of its Black citizens. This country is a direct product of the rape of a continent. And because of my heritage I will always have Africa in my blood. And because of my birth, I will always have America in my veins. So, you ask, what does the “I Have a Dream” speech mean to me? It means that once I left my mother’s womb and entered the world on that cold December day, that I would be blessed and cursed. I would be cursed with the fact that every single person who ever looked like me in this nation had been berated, judged, brought down and spit on for more than 300 years. But the funny thing is that I’d also be tremendously blessed, that I, because of my skin and my ethnic characteristics, would share the same heritage as master scientists, musicians, artists, activists, and influential individuals who overcame the unimaginable. This speech means that I have a great responsibility that may seem unfair but is true. I am African-American and because of that I expect more for myself. I hold my self to a higher standard because I am not only expected to fail, but I am encouraged to do so in this country.
I heard Chris Rock once say, and I’m summarizing, that people see the first Black president of the United States and congratulate Black people. Rock says that this notion in its very essence is flawed. Black people in this nation have been qualified to run it since the beginning of our days. To FINALLY see one in the White House isn’t a testament to black accomplishment, but to white progression. Those in power finally were not ignorant to the idea that intelligence is colorless. Finally white Americans as well as Black, Asian, Middle Eastern and Mexican Americans put aside their prejudices and voted for the best man who in this case was a man of African Decent.[hr gap=”2″]
Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech means that I must require greatness out of myself. It means that I must represent my community with grace and respect. This speech means that I have no choice but to use all of the tools in my reach to further the dream that one day my children will have a world where people are not judged on their skin color because that day is not today. Today in 2015 ONLY 40 years after the Civil Rights Movement we still face racial injustice. With police brutality cases just now being topics of conversations in the homes of most Americans, this speech means that I have to be an active member in change. I have seen systematic racism face to face. I have been degraded because of my race, called names because of my race, been told I was lesser than because of my race and it’s 2015. We, as a nation, have come a long way but no, we aren’t there yet. With over 400 years of persecution compared to only 40 years of so-called freedom, how could we be there? After the abolishment of slavery, we asked for desegregation and were told that we were asking for too much. After desegregation, we asked for voting rights and were told we were asking for too much. After voting rights we asked for equal pay and were told we were asking for too much. With each fight, the opposition complained that we, not just black Americans but all justice seeking moral Americans would never be satisfied. I say today in 2015 that Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech means to never be satisfied until that dream comes to fruition. So for me as an American, regardless of my race I will not be content until black Americans are provided equal pay, until unarmed blacks in this country cease to be shot down by police officers at astounding rates, until the term “acting black” isn’t used as an insult, until black Americans are fairly represented in office, we cannot be satisfied until we overcome the generational poverty that destroys our communities, until we cease to be overly represented and targeted by the prison system. I will not be satisfied until we overcome the lie of the war on drugs and realize that our similarities far out way our differences.[hr gap=”2″]
What does Dr. King’s speech mean to me? His dream means that hundreds upon thousands of Americans in this country laid down their lives and bled for the possibility for me to be able to continue this fight. The majority of states in America do not require their officers to report their fatal shootings to the FBI database. Yet still, with the shootings that are reported, according to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement study, the police kill at least one unarmed black person every 28 hours. So what does his “I Have A Dream” speech mean to me? It means that I will not because I cannot become satisfied in my place and the place of my brothers and sisters until not some, not most, but “ALL of God’s children: black man and white man, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual ‘free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’”