March 20, 2015
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly,” wrote Langston Hughes.
One of the greatest men that the world has ever known is the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. author of the “I Have a Dream” speech. His dream was not some thoughtless wish that one makes before going to sleep. This is about the highest level of accountability. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fighter. He was definitely not the pacifist that is being depicted by the media today. Dr. King cared very deeply for his people and he put it all on the line for all of humanity, America, and specifically Black Americans.
Dr. King’s dream wasn’t about going to sleep and hoping that things would change – just the opposite. He worked, fought, struggled, and paid the ultimate price with his life. The “dream” is a metaphor for a vision; a vision that was communicated to him by the Creator when he did sleep. Many people in religion say that dreams come from three places: The subconscious; the Creator; or the Devil. Dreams have also been credited by many artists as being the source of their creativity and are often deeply symbolic. I believe that Dr. King’s dream for the Black man in America came from his conversations with God.
Dreams represent one of the most mysterious and interesting experiences in our lives. There has always been a keen interest in the analysis and interpretation of dreams. Dreams play a very important role in our human existence and evolution. While we forget most of our dreams, there are times that our dreams become pivotal and definitive moments in our lives. I’m very fortunate to be able to dream every time I fall asleep. In fact, in many cases especially during the day, I only know that I had fallen asleep because I would have a dream. I never have bad dreams or nightmares – my dreams are usually about my work, family or our people. In my dreams, I’m usually confronting the daily challenges of my life and many times I will see the solution in my dream. There have been many times these solutions are the best course of action for me. Dreams are powerful and none was more powerful than Dr. King’s dream:
“And 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 one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. 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.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963)
These words and this dream drive my every spirit and when I have a moment to think about it, it fills my eyes with tears (my eyes are full right now). These are not the words of a pacifist – these are the words of a prophet, a genius, a champion and a freedom fighter – a person who was connected to a higher power (God). Dr. King’s dream is the vision for all humanity and Black people are part of that humanity and deserve to derive the benefits that Almighty God bestowed on the crown of His creation. What has been done to Black people by white people is immoral and just wrong. I can only think of one reason why this not only happened, but why it and last as long as it did (300 years). It was for the love of money. The love of money (i.e. power, wealth, influence, control, etc.) has corrupted people to the point that people will do almost anything to get money. The enslavement of millions of Black people was motivated by pure greed and a deep and poisonous love for money.
There are many struggles by both individuals and groups and the “good guy” doesn’t always win, at least in this dimension. The good guys in this case are those that are being oppressed. One group can inflict pain and oppression over another group without any apparent consequences. This was the plight of the Black people in America for the past 400 years and it continues to be motivated by the love of money which is masked under a false pretense, superficial, and most ignorant position like skin color. This falsehood is fed to the masses to keep us from seeing the real reason why we practice hate – its greed.
If we have any faith in the natural order of things (God), there have to be real consequences for the foul actions of people. There are some who believe that there is a heaven and a hell. Heaven is for those people who uphold the laws of God and hell is for those who don’t. While this is a very simplified interpretation of heaven and hell, it doesn’t take away the reality that the fight of right versus wrong or good versus evil is real amongst men. Freedom isn’t free; sometimes peace (i.e. justice, right, equality, etc.) can’t be achieved without a fight and/or a struggle, and Dr. King’s dream was about taking on this fight and destroying the myth of racial superiority. Why? Because we are all the same under our skin. We all are born and not one of us will escape death. We all have to breathe oxygen and eat to sustain ourselves. Therefore, we are all human and have the same fate as all other humans. Along the way, division, which was intended to be a human strength and a beauty, was magnified by an evil spirit (devil) and made human superiority (white) and human inferiority (black) that has been supported through a number of institutions (i.e. family, religion, law, etc.). The reality is that the most superior amongst us are those that are the most helpful to humanity. I asked you, “Who can determine who their parents will be?” If you can control this, then you can control the color of your skin. You, like me, had nothing to say with who your parents are. So, this argument is moot. However, just like there are higher levels of good, there are lower levels of bad and this dynamic is what life is all about. This is the challenge of human life. Humanity must prevail.
There is but one world and one people. There is no superiority of one people over another based on the color of one’s skin. What distinguishes one group from another is their good and bad deeds – this is the only measurement. Will good (knowledge) prevail or will bad (ignorance) prevail?
This is the fight that Dr. King waged for most of his short adult life. This was his dream and his vision. Dr. King’s dream (vision) has been the mantra of the Black community since we arrived here on the first slave ship stripped of our culture, dignity, humanity, and our freedom. We have withstood, time and time again, many real challenges that threatened our very existence. From the nearly 350 years of torture, brutality and inhumane treatment known as the American institution of slavery, the demoralizing structural and systemic inhuman treatment under the racist Jim Crow laws to the institutional racism of today that traps nearly 45 million Black people in a near permanent substandard economic position, the collective dream and vision was to sacrifice and fight until victory was ours. This is the same dream and spirit that kept millions of our Black ancestors hopeful that someday we would be free; someday we would be able to vote; someday we would control our own destiny. No one is going to do this for us. We must do it for ourselves.
DREAMS ARE THE FOUNDATION FOR VISION AND HOPE. “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly,” wrote Langston Hughes. If you just go by the numbers, the Black community in America is in real and serious trouble. Unfortunately, time is running out for the Black community to come up with a solution that will begin to put them back on track. Unless this happens and happens quickly, Blacks will become a permanent underclass in America (I estimate that we have about 20 years). While the current outcomes are astronomical and daunting, they don’t take into consideration the anemic challenges that our pipeline will produce. Unfortunately, our problems will get worse. The ignorance about the Black man’s struggle in America is all but lost amongst the current young generation and those that were born in the 40s and 50s are dying and when they go, we would have lost the last survivors of those who lived during segregation and KKK terrorism. For those born during this period knew – they knew who was the enemy of the Black man. Today, with racism being ostensibly invisible the struggle is different and requires a different type of trained mind, which many of our young people don’t possess. Our young people are under severe oppression and trauma but without knowledge of their past, they are unable to mount an effectively strategic fight, resulting in potentially severe internal doubt and pervasive hopelessness.
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are being stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963)
Like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which was constructed by the German Democratic Republic that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany – the work that was done to remove the Iron Curtain wasn’t the end, it was the beginning of the real work. Discussions immediately began for an emergency merger of the German government and economies. On May 19, 1990, the two German states signed a treaty agreeing on an economic and social union with the Deutsche Mark replacing the East German mark as the official currency of East Germany. Despite many challenges, the process of unification moved ahead and today Germany has a well-developed trade system which includes both import and export services and is rich in terms of skillful, talented and educated employers, which helped the German economy to become pioneers in manufacturing industries over other countries in the world (i.e. machinery, vehicle, electronics, chemicals, etc.).
Over the past 50 years, the Black community has become sissified because of very minor gains. The turbulent 60s, which included the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wasn’t the end – it was the beginning of the real work to be done. The movement produced some gains but nothing enough to really address the alarming disparities that Black people face as a result of where we started in America. Did we think we were going to reverse issues that took hundreds of years to develop in one decade? The 60s produced landmark federal legislation but the struggle wasn’t over, instead it was just the beginning. America has grown up a little, but not much. No longer is open racism acceptable, but racism is still alive and well, engrained in all of America’s systems.
Where is the fight today and who is waging it? Yes, racial bigotry and prejudices have been challenged openly, but massive levels of bias remain; discrimination is rampant, and racism is alive (powerful people are able to implement their racist views). Today, with nearly 50 years of social inactivity our community is asleep. This is why our challenges are growing and not diminishing. We continue to be damaged by inferior housing, inferior education, inferior food, and inferior thinking. Our inferior thinking is tied to a fundamental belief that someone else is going to do for us (especially those who have amassed a fortune from our conditions) what we must do for ourselves. Why is it that every fight Blacks have fought for freedom and civil rights in the country has been absolutely rejected and defended against by the white establishment? Not one gain that we’ve achieved in this country was a gift; all of them were hard fought wins. During those struggles, we lost time, wealth, dignity, and many times our lives for these very basic gains. Even today, instead of achieving more, many of our previous gains are being rolled back. Our disconnection from our past, our inability to understand Dr. King’s dream (vision); and our inability to dream has significantly contributed to our hopelessness and collective paralysis. As a group, we’ve taken our eyes off the prize, especially the most educated and successful amongst us who, in their efforts to be accepted, have been assimilated.
Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on Facebook (Rahim Islam) and Twitter (@RahimIslamUC).