Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King’s Immortal Words

It has been more than a half century since Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the hot summer sun before thousands of people. We still hold the dream…to judge people by the content of their character…not the color of their skin. In August of 1963, we had a long way to go.

We still have a long way to go.

We’ve given racism plenty of lip service in six decades.  However, we haven’t done enough collectively to make it a word no one needs to use anymore. What is with racism and why are we struggling? There’s so much in the news that indicates we still have a serious problem with racism. A unarmed black man was ambushed in Brunswick, Georgia by three white men because he was jogging through their neighborhood? Justice was served. Three men are in prison.

That won’t bring a young Ahmaud Arbery back to his loved ones.

We still aren’t practicing mutual respect in the human race. We continue to be unkind to one another. You see it in the media and on the street. Racism and Anti-Semitism, to name two troubling issues, went underground and for a long time.  They just weren’t discussed to any degree. However, both have boiled under the surface like a pan of hot water left on the stove. 

Dr. King’s death at the hands of a white assassin on a hotel balcony in 1968 stunned Americans, but it wasn’t enough to jolt us into real change. It has been through the valiant efforts of the tenacious few there has been any change in nearly 60 years.

I think of Rosa Parks, a lone patriot who exhibited the courage to fight for equality by sitting in the “Whites Only” section of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That one step – an act of non-violent protest and defiance – took monumental guts. Or the gentlemen who sat at a “Whites Only” section of a drug store soda bar in protest took unending courage. He put his own life at risk to drive home a point.

The Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 staged by the late Congressman John Lewis and Dr. King was a turning point toward the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later the Voting Rights Act of 1965 It was a bloody journey and a turning point for blacks in America. So many hurdles have been overcome since against discrimination, yet it continues to manifest itself across America regardless of the sacrifices made by courageous souls then and now.

There are those in power who wish to reduce or eliminate voting rights for those who struggle getting to poling places. They want to abolish the Voting Rights Act one state at a time and they’re rather bold about it. A number of states are taking it upon themselves to do away with voting rights for all and make it only for a few. This is not who we’re supposed to be, folks. Each and everyone of us in all our colors and beliefs should have access to voting, especially if we are disabled and cannot get to a polling place, and especially if you are poor and don’t have the means to get there.

Do you see the angle here?

Racism remains alive on Capitol Hill in Washington and in select states across the land. Equality remains elusive. We still aren’t there, especially when legislators effort to prevent the people from voting. You can take out mailboxes and make it more challenging to vote. However, you will not stop the masses from voting who are determined to be heard. People with the will are going to find a way to vote.

Freedom has never been free. People have always had to fight for their freedom – and knock down those who would take it away. Millions of lives have been sacrificed in the name of freedom and the elimination of oppression. We were founded on this principle in 1776. That concept remains true today. We have to continue to stand up and fight for Democracy and equality.

Karl Gregory at the Levitt sales office in Bowie, Maryland in 1963.

I grew up in the suburban Washington, D.C. community of Bowie, Maryland – which was a hot bed of protests by both whites and blacks in 1963 when a black man—Dr. Karl D. Gregory—tried to buy a new home from developer Levitt & Sons in the “Belair At Bowie” community. He was denied the opportunity.

He and so many others… 

Like Levittown, Pennsylvania, which was a predominately white community with its share of racial tensions, Belair At Bowie was also a “Whites Only” suburban Washington housing development by Levitt & Sons.  Company President Bill Levitt perceived selling to blacks would hurt home resale values and drag the planned community down. He was concerned whites wouldn’t buy in a community where blacks could also buy. His copout to the protests was other developers were doing it too and that was just the way business was done.

How many home sales did Levitt lose choosing to go with the flow?

Protests at the Belair At Bowie sales exhibit in 1963.

It wasn’t until 1967 with the Fair Housing Act that Levitt & Sons, which had been sold to ITT, welcomed blacks to buy new homes in Bowie. Bill Levitt died in 1994 at the age of 86 after the deal he cut with ITT years earlier ultimately rendered him broke.

For some…it was justice.

When we take a snapshot of Bowie, Maryland today, Levitt’s perception of blacks and resale values was a bit askew.  The sky didn’t fall and Belair At Bowie didn’t evolve into a slum.  Instead, it has thrived, with home resale values the highest they’ve ever been. The average Bowie home sells for $500,000+ today in a healthy housing market.  What’s more, they sell right away because people want to live there.  African Americans encompass 56-percent of Bowie’s population today and the community has never been more diverse.

There is peace in the Belair At Bowie community today.

We must shed our dated logic about skin color and religious beliefs to become a true melting pot where we can comfortably blend and become a unified United States of America. We will all be better off.    

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s