Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

We Must Reclaim the Dream

Aug 14, 2010

On August 28th the American people will be asked to distinguish between two very different visions of the future of America. Ironically the battle for the future is embedded in an interpretation of America’s past.

The Reverend Al Sharpton and National Action Network, of which I proudly serve as National Executive Director, have called upon concerned citizens of all races to gather in our nation’s capitol to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther, Jr., and to confront those who would use his legacy to justify a change in direction that would reverse many of the accomplishments Dr. King and men like Reverend Sharpton march and struggle for. 

Glenn Beck of Fox News and his followers have decided to “commemorate” the 47th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, during which Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech that helped set the tone for the last half of the 20th century. Beck and his misguided followers assert that, if he was alive, Dr. King’s vision of America would resemble their version and not the vision that the great American icon lived and died for.

This unprecedented attempt to hijack and misinterpret Dr. King’s works by the extreme right threatens to falsely influence the generations born since Dr. King’s assassination. They seek to distort so that they can further an agenda antithetical to the America the civil rights movement sought. They seek to distort so they can reverse the social and economic gains of those Americans who were enlightened and empowered by Dr. King’s unforgettable speech.

That is why many in my generation have responded resoundingly and flooded our National Action Network offices with telephone calls and e-mails pledging support. That is why the August 28th “Reclaim the Dream” march is a major crossroad in the struggle for Equality, especially for those born after Dr. King’s death.

As a 30-year old single mother of an 11-year son, I feel the threat on a personal as well as a professional level. For Beck’s followers seek not only to influence my generation, they seek to change the world for the next. They want to return the Constitution to the 18th century where the rich and powerful were allowed to prey on the weak and poor.
And so as our leader Reverend Sharpton has warned, the struggle for true Equality remains the central mission of the civil rights movement even in the 21st century. Our work is far from over as some may suggest or even believe. The importance of this era in the civil rights movement is actually growing each day.

There is much more work to do before we can claim the work of Dr. King and Reverend Sharpton is complete. It is clear that my generation will not have the luxury of inaction as some once thought. There are massive education gaps, persistent healthcare disparities, and uneven access to services and capital for our small businesses, not to mention an alarming rise in accessibility to illegal guns. Neither Mr. Beck nor our side is in a position to “declare victory” or bask in the glow of a so-called post-racial America.

Yes, we have much to be thankful for. The election of President Obama has validated the work of those of us who work on the community level and his presidency has moved beyond symbolism into substance and change. I have accompanied Reverend Sharpton to a number of White House briefings on labor and education issues during the last year and half. We don’t always agree on the direction the administration may take on an issue. But we almost always agree on the destination: an America characterized by Equality, high ideals, and in the words of the President, the quest for a more perfect union.

On August 28th the shared quest of Dr. King, Reverend Sharpton and President Obama will be defended by many of those in my generation who are fed up with social and economic inequities. We will travel to Washington, DC to Reclaim the Dream.

And when we gather, we will be mindful of Dr. King’s true spirit: to love those who disagree with you and to be fierce warriors of non-violent change. We do not hate those who stand with Beck, but we must remind them that Dr. King’s dream included all people. And we will not be forgotten.

Join me on August 28 in Washington, DC. Call National Action Network to arrange transportation…877-626-4651 

Tamika D. Mallory, Executive Director National Action Network