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Are We Living Dr. Kings Dream?

By Deloris P. Franklin



Yesterday: What it was likeI was born on November 7th, 1948 in Marango County, Alabama.My Mother often told me of my birth and where I was born. I was born on the Tolbert plantation. The Tolbert’s place had been passed down for generations since slavery times. My mother’s family was allowed to live there, in a house with no indoor plumbing, as long as they worked the land, working the cotton fields, and they were paid by how much cotton they picked. When the money was divided up, they would take most of it and give my mother what they thought was fair, just enough to put a little food on the table for her 7 children and my grandmother. {{more}}When I was years old we moved to the city of Birmingham, Alabama. My mother got three jobs cleaning houses. I do remember growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. I can remember my Mother teaching my older sister and my brother, all of the dos and don’ts of the segregated society and regarding the buses, where we could sit and where we were not allowed to sit. When I became old enough to understand, she also taught me.I recall going to the bus stop for the first time with my mother. During that time, it was set up like this. There would be the bus driver who opened the door for white’s only and at the back door of the bus there was another white man to take money from the Negroes who entered through the back. I saw two signs one that read WHITES ONLY and another said Coloreds.Throughout the downtown stores shopping with my mother the signs were put up at all the water fountains and bathrooms that read “white only”. If we were hungry or thirsty, we had to forget about it until we got back in the Negro section of town because that was a violation of the law, “to serve food to Negroes at the same counter with whites”.It was also a violation, if there four or five whites walking toward you on the sidewalk and you didn’t give them the “right of way”. My Mother and I had to step off the sidewalk onto the street giving them the sidewalk without looking directly at them. I asked my Mother why we had to come off the side walk, “there’s enough room for all of us”. Her only reply was “because this is what colored people have to do”. I could see the hurt and tears in her eyes, and the oppression on her face. My mother would begin to sing about the Lord, songs that would up lift her spirit. Sometimes she would sing “This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine; or “I woke up this morning with my mind Stayed on Freedom”, or “Come by here my Lord come by here.” My mother would sing the freedom songs for the same reasons the slaves sang them, for hope, joy, peace, and freedom.Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, was a very fearful times, not knowing when the next march by The United Klan’s of America, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, were coming through my neighbor-hood burning crosses on our lawn or getting out of their cars with guns. For many years someone would stand watching out for the KKK just in case they threw a fired-cross in our yard so we would have enough time to get out of the house.In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama was one of the toughest holdouts to desegregation. In fact, it had aptly earned the nickname “ Bombington” and “ A city of Fear” because of its violent response to civil rights activists. In part, this was because of Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor. It was Connor who controlled the city. When the Freedom Riders arrived in 1961, Connor stood idly by as the Ku Klux Klan attacked them. Two years later, Connor was still a staunch segregationist who was determined to prevent integration in spite of white business owners who hoped to end the boycott of their stores.At 13 years of age, I knew I wanted a better life for my Mother, a better life for my children, and for generations that would come after me.By word of mouth we heard that Dr. King would be coming out to the high school for those who wanted their freedom. We would have to leave school to take part in the march downtown. The teachers tried to stop us but to no avail. I chose to march with Dr. King on May 7, 1963 and about two hundred others who took that long walk downtown. On our way there the white’s tried to make things as difficult as possible for us. They stooped to throwing all kind of things at us but we kept singing and marching, our minds were made up.Dr. King insisted that we bring nothing with us that could be interpreted as a weapon like knives, guns, razors, or even a toothpick. When we arrived downtown the policemen were waiting for us along with firemen with high pressure hoses, and German Shepard dogs. The architect of this response was the famed and feared Eugene “Bull” Connor, the City Commissioner. His treatment of Blacks had been brutal especially with the use of attack dogs and high pressure water hoses on protesters. We were all students ranging from 7 to 19 years old with the objective of walking up and down the sidewalks until “Bull Connor” released his assault. Kids were beaten, hosed, attacked and never was there so much blood in the Birmingham streets as that day. Angry Black adults, seeing how their children were being beaten began to throw rocks and debris at the police and firemen as well. They were also taken to jail along with the kids. Over 3200 blacks were jailed. Since the jails were overflowed, we were put in all county jails and jails in other counties. The buildings were overcrowded and people died or were injured because of the conditions. People were not fed, given water to drink, and could not use toilet facilities.Charges against the students were dropped the next day through intervention by the U.S. Attorney General. Most were released the next day, and then some were released a day later. Parents and friends stood outside the city jail as the demonstrators were freed, singly and in small group throughout the day. They were released very slowly, while the rest of us had to wait another day before we were released.Today: Are we living the dream?In August of 1963 King gave the “I Have A Dream” speech. In this speech he spoke of his desire for a future where blacks and whites among others would coexist as equals. The question remains, “Are we living the dream?”We moved in the direction of living the dream when signs were removed from drinking fountains, bathrooms, and public places. But still we have to contend with not receiving the best service just because of the color of our skin.Schools have been integrated legally for black and white kid’s yet segregated schools along racial lines still exist. The Voting Rights Act was passed so all citizens in the country could vote but there were still artificial barriers instituted to prevent minorities from either voting or having their vote count. Even in the last election, two months ago, there were illegal methods thought up in order to dis-enfranchise certain segments of the society when it was thought that they could vote for a certain party or candidate. The job place is supposed to be color blind but the “ceiling” is still there for the majority of people of color. Economic disparity between the races is large and increasing. Our integrated military includes blacks who fought and died for this country but are still afforded less than first class citizenship in this country. So, after taking some of these statements into consideration, you can ask yourself the question, “Are We Living the Dream?”Tomorrow“Will We Ever Live The Dream”One of the biggest events that has ever happened in this country that will make a way for us all to live the dream is the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.But believe this; racism still exists at an unacceptable level in this country. His election puts us ever so close to living out King’s dream but it’s up to individuals to purge their racism so that we all can coexist as equals. So as Martin Luther King phrased it:This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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