Sunday’s Horizon includes four essays on the 5oth anniversary of the March on Washington.
Jeff Artis, president emeritus of the Roanoke chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, writes in “Marking Roanoke’s progress in realizing MLK’s dream:
Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. It is one of the greatest speeches ever given. Certainly, the speech is a checklist on whether or not America has lived up to or is living up to its creed of “liberty and justice for all.”
If a report card could be given 50 years later, what would it look like? Specifically, what would that report card look like in regard to King’s dream in Roanoke? Continue reading.
Timothy J. Heaphy, United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, writes in “Safe communities: today’s civil rights challenge”:
Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stirred the hearts and hopes of a nation when he stood before thousands in Washington and described his dream of a world in which “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As we celebrate the golden anniversary of his delivery of those powerful words, we have an opportunity to evaluate how our modern pursuit of justice compares to King’s vision.
While today’s world is demonstrably more just than it was in 1963, we cannot credibly claim to have achieved King’s dream of an equal opportunity society. Continue reading.
Bill Tanger, a business owner, conservationist and lifelong activist living in Botetourt County, writes in “A half century later, the dream lives on”:
The country was embroiled in civil rights issues in the early ’60s. It was a time of Freedom Riders, Malcolm X, Bull Conner and his dogs, churches blown up and civil rights workers murdered and missing. The pressure was building, but the solution was unknown.
On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy called for a Civil Rights Act. A. Phillip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who had originally called for a march on Washington in 1941, called again for a new march on Washington.
Later that month, the call went out for a march on Washington for jobs and freedom. Continue reading.
Betsy Biesenbach, of Roanoke, is a freelance writer, title examiner and author of “Bits O’ Betsy Biesenbach.” She writes in “We’ve become our own oppressors”:
A few years ago, a black friend told me a story about working the polls with an older white woman from one of Roanoke’s more well-to-do neighborhoods. They chatted politely for a while, and then the subject of race came up. My friend said the woman told her how happy she was that the civil rights movement was over and done with, that black people have the same rights and opportunities as whites, and that we can all move beyond that ugly period in our history.
My friend was dumbfounded. She had moved to Roanoke as a child to live with relatives in the 1960s, when the county she lived in closed the public schools rather than integrate them. Being separated from her parents had a life-long impact on her, and although she now holds down a professional position, has a nice home and the kind of life her parents and grandparents could only have dreamed of, she does not see the world through the same rose-colored glasses. Continue reading.