“I must confess that that dream that I had that day has in many points turned into a nightmare.”
These were words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during a May 1967 interview with NBC News correspondent Sander Vanocour. It was obvious that he was frustrated with being defined by his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech. King had evolved. He was no longer the safe Negro at the March on Washington that White America was comfortable with. At the time of this interview 66% of Americans had an unfavorable view of Dr. King. If he, himself, was sick and tired of all the “Dream Talk” why in the hell are we still carrying it on in his name?
Every year, as we celebrate the life of the drum major for justice, we love to ask the question “where do we go from here?” when it comes to Dr. King’s work. The real question is: “Where did Dr. King leave off?” The Dream speech was made in 1963. He was assassinated in April 1968. What happened in those 56 months that the historians don’t want us to know about? What changed about Dr. King that made him a most hated man in America instead of the beloved Negro he had been for so long. More importantly, what work was he engaged in at the time of his death? If we don’t answer these questions forthrightly, we could be just as guilty of prostituting Dr. King’s name as most of these corporate sponsors.
There is a difference between a Dream and a Vision. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a Dream is a series of thoughts, images and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep. A Vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom. It was easier for White America to deal with Dr. King the Dreamer, but it was difficult for them to deal with him as the Visionary. King, the dreamer, fought for decency. King, the visionary, was fighting for economic equality. He was demanding that White America give up some of her White privilege.
The Dreamer wanted to integrate lunch counters and public restrooms. The Visionary wanted to close the wealth gap between Blacks and Whites. The Dreamer believed in the American dream for Black America. The Visionary said it had become a nightmare. The Dreamer wanted little White Boys and Little White girls to walk hand in hand. The Visionary wanted them to live in the same housing conditions. The Dreamer wanted a relationship with the president of the United States. The Visionary wouldn’t return the president’s phone calls. The Dreamer preached non-violence in America. The Visionary preached non-violence BY America. The Dreamer felt that the Nation of Islam and Black Nationalists groups were troublemakers. The Visionary met with them and formed a United Front against slums in Chicago. The Dreamer sang We Shall Overcome. The Visionary said I’ve been to the mountaintop. The Dreamer and the Visionary were clearly two different men, or better said, the same man at two distinctly different stages of development.
Muhammad Ali once said that a man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. If we continue to reduce Dr. King to his “1963 Dream” we are saying that he wasted the last 56 months (the last 5 years) of his life. We dishonor him every time we do this. There must be a national campaign to remove the language of “King’s Dream” replacing it with “King’s Vision.” That dream died even while King lived. It’s time for Black America to build on his vision, whether corporate America likes it or not.
A CALL TO ACTION!!
Let us study the last few years of Dr. King’s life and carry on that vision. He formulated The Poor People’s Campaign to address poverty, hunger and those “sacrifice zip codes” in America that have been traditionally neglected. If this is not our focus during MLK Day, we are not honoring the man as he should be honored. Dr. King died with a determination to fight the “triple evils” of Racism, Materialism and Militarism. He wanted Black churches to get involved in the fight for social justice. Dr. King died trying to build people; not mega-churches. He wanted us to lift our voices against unjust wars. He met with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in his home and pledged a newfound unity focused on the eradication of poverty in the ghettos of America. He wanted unity without uniformity. Unity between Christians and Muslims is where the Visionary was taking his followers. Lastly, Dr. King in 1968 commanded Black America to “redistribute our pain” by taking Black consumer dollars and redirecting those dollars into Black-owned businesses. These are just a few of the evolved positions of the Visionary before they murdered him.
I’m sick of hearing about the dream. Dr. King was too. Young Black America isn’t interested in a dream. It’s time for us to evolve from the dream state into a visionary state the way Dr. King did the last 5 years of his life. King evolved. It’s time we do the same.