Civil rights advocates, from the national leaders to the local communities, began a fight years ago in the United States to compel those of European heritage to stop their practices of discrimination towards those of African descent. As history has noted, those fights were often brutal, yet those civil rights soldiers who fought the fights; who marched the marches; who protested peacefully, did not waiver in their determination to make this nation look at itself and realize it was not living up to its creed.
As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, we have to recognize that change has come. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 are tangible examples of progress not just for Blacks, but for society as a whole. Community schools have improved and college education is more accessible. There are successful Black entrepreneurs, business leaders, mayors and governors. We have been the beneficiaries of those civil rights workers who dared to dream a reality that many understood they would never see. Dr. King, himself, would not have imagined that a young man born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and White mother would someday be the president of the United States.
So where are we today? Discrimination still exists. Bigotry hasn’t been eradicated. Prejudice still persists. The unrest in our communities is real. The desperation and hopeless doesn’t magically disappear with a new sunrise. We have to find ways to help the hopeless. We have to find ways to brighten spirits where darkness wants to reside. We have to provide encouragement in places where people believe it can’t exist.
Those are the same challenges that those who began the fight for civil rights had to deal with. They had to convince the hopeless, the naysayers, the desperate, and the darkened souls that things could change; that it could be better. This is the same challenge today. Even though there has been progress, we also know that this place is not the place it should be. As we remember Dr. King and all of the early warriors for civil rights, understand that the push for progress is not easy. Impediments are created solely to throttle progress. Dr. King would tell you that. He would also tell you that even at the darkest of night, the light of day is never very far away. We must continue the fight.