By Hazel Trice Edney (www.TriceEdneyWire.com)
WASHINGTON – There is much fanfare surrounding the long-anticipated unveiling and dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall on Aug. 28.
That 11 a.m. Sunday program will no doubt emanate all the euphoria, powerful emotions and spiritual prowess as a traditional Sunday morning worship service. But, as some Black civil rights leaders gear up to participate in the unveiling, they acknowledge the reality this week that the dream of which Dr. King preached has still fallen woefully short.
“The dedication promises to be a historic event for the U.S. and nations around the world, as Dr. King’s vision and timeless beliefs continue to resonate with people of all lands,” says Harry E. Johnson Sr., president and CEO of the National Memorial Project Foundation, on www.dedicatethedream.org. “World leaders, civil rights pioneers, citizens who remember the hard days of segregation and those leading the next generation closer to Dr. King’s dream, will assemble together for the long-awaited celebration and remembrance.”
According to responses to questions from the Trice Edney News Wire this week, minds of civil rights leaders will also be focused on one of Dr. King’s most famous questions: “Where do we go from here – chaos or community?”
“We have made very real and significant progress since the March on Washington, but we have a long ways to go before we could say that what Dr. King envisioned is a reality,” says John A. Payton, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “The 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the 1991 Civil Rights Act and much more – all came after the march. Those were all significant human rights achievements. Their enforcement has made the entire country more just. However, even as we celebrate what has been achieved, we must recognize what remains to be accomplished.”
He then ticked off the progress and the lack thereof on several key issues:
Education: Public schools in most inner cities are in crisis, with graduation rates for Black kids below 50 percent in some urban areas causing an educational deficiency that cripple the possibilities for many Black youth, Peyton said.
Criminal Justice: “In 1963 there were some 200,000 persons in prison in the United States, and there was a small racial gap in that prison population. Today, there are over 2.5 million people in prison and about half are Black and Latino. While participation in illegal drug use occurs at the same rate for White and Black people, the arrest and incarceration rate for Black people is seven times that of White people. That is a huge racial gap,” he said.
Economic Justice: “We still see significant and often structural racism affecting job opportunities in hiring and promotion.”
Voting: “This one seemingly bright spot is the only bright because of the presence of the Voting Rights Act, which is constantly under challenge. Two years ago it was sustained by the Supreme Court in a case that the Legal Defense Fund argued,