As America last Wednesday commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke says the slain civil rights leader’s work is yet to be completed.
“We have not yet completed this work,” Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life.
“Disparities continue to exist in criminal justice, health care and education, and recent efforts to restrict voting demonstrate that there are some people who refuse to accept African-Americans and Latinos as their fellow citizens, with equal rights under the law,” she added.
“In the next half-century, we have a responsibility to continue in our efforts to secure justice for every American,” continued Clarke, calling for the fulfillment of King’s dream.
She noted that King had issued a call to the conscience of America – to uphold the promise of equality in the country’s Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution.
“When he spoke these words (“I Have a Dream”), that promise remained unrealized for most Americans,” Clarke said.
“It has been the work of our nation in the half-century since Dr. King’s speech to answer his call for justice,” she added.
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, recognized the historic weight of “the simple phrase” as “a powerful tool in the struggle to confront the violence of racist sectors of the U.S. society half a century ago.
“The force of the conviction of Rev. King to struggle using nonviolent means to achieve profound change accomplished more than any weapon could have,” he said.
“Although there is a long way to go, his message changed history and remains as powerful and urgent today as it was 50 years ago,” Insulza added.
He said the legacy of King “can be felt powerfully in the presence of President Barack Obama in the White House and in many areas of the society and politics of this great country,” but he added “there is still much to be done, throughout the Americas, to put an end to discrimination and inequality.”
The OAS chief recalled the “important work” carried out by the hemispheric organization in this regard, reflecting on the adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
In his speech during the commemoration in Washington, Obama reminded the country that it needs to get back to work, adding that, because civil rights protesters kept marching in the 1960s “America changed.”
The first US black president said civil rights and voting rights laws were passed, and educational opportunities opened “so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry.
“And, yes, eventually the White House changed.”
But he underscored the immense disparities in wealth, health care and safety, among other things, that remain across the U.S.
“The position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded,” said Obama shortly after King’s family rang a “bell of freedom” at 3:00 p.m., the same moment Dr. King had finished his “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years earlier.