Almost 52 years ago, August 28, 1963,Martin Luther King, Jr., the 20th Century’s pre-eminent Apostle of non-violence, social justice, and commitment to the pursuit of excellence, inspirationally described the road African-Americans had travelled from slavery and his “dream” to enable them to access future opportunities.
He was 34 years old, I was 32. Until April 4, 1968, the date of his assassination in Memphis, TN, I had the privilege of serving as one of his political advisors, his personal lawyer and draft speechwriter. I am now 84 years old as we consider where we as a people go from here today.
Repeatedly, in speeches and articles I have said that if “The surviving Lions, don’t tell THEIR stories, the Hunters will get all of the credit!”
If “Black Lives” REALLY MATTER, then we must acquire and exercise the right to vote to insure that we elect officials who will impartially administer the laws and manage those State and Municipal Agencies having jurisdiction over our children and our own daily lives.
THE most important thing that white supremacist political power feared and continues to fear is the right to vote, and it’s exercise in the hands of African-Americans. The Civil War, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to our Constitution constitute the cornerstones of our struggle to make sure, going forward, that we have the political power to assure that Black lives really do matter.
The extent to which we as parents and as a community are prepared to exercise 24/7 disciplined and parental leadership will determine where we go from here. Our guidance, love and leadership can physically save our children from wanton gun violence, and spiritually save them from the denigrating effects of depression, self-hate and misplaced anger at innocent third parties. Most important we can save them from self-indulgent mediocrity.
Our ancestors survived the Middle passage; slavery, Jim Crow, lynching’s, the Klu Klux Klan and State government imposed racial segregation. We are the sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of: Zora Neal Hurston, Richard Wright, Blanche K.Bruce, Mary McCleod Bethune, W. E. B. Dubois, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Fredrick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnson, Malcom X, Samuel B. Cornish and John Russwurm, Dred Scott, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr, Richard Allen, and many others.
To quote a chorus from our Negro National Anthem:
“We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”
Everyone who reads this post should also read, for the first time, or again, Howard Fast’s novel FREEDOM ROAD. Reading it will refresh your recollection of just how, historically essential, has been and will be the acquisition and exercise of voting power to shaping our destiny as a people in the second decade of this 21st Century.
Envisioning where we go from here therefore, first depends upon whether we adults, who are trustees of our children’s current welfare and security, are prepared to step up to the plate and accept our historically and spiritually mandated calling:
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
This post is part of the “Black Future Month” series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth — and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.