In commemoration of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he made almost half a century ago, a group of distinguished panelists gathered on Aug. 6 at Dr. King’s alma mater to discuss the progress made and the problems faced by the African-American community in today’s economy.
Morehouse College was just the first stop on the U.S. tour known as the “Table of Brotherhood Project” sponsored by Chevrolet and General Motors. The project went to Memphis, Chicago, and eventually Washington D.C. The discussions are meant to celebrate Dr. King before the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington D.C., making this the first tribute in the nation’s capitol to a man of peace as well as a man of color.
Panelists for the premiere discussion included several prominent individuals such as pioneer journalist and founder of the Trumpet Awards, Xerona Clayton; chairman of the Student Non Violent Committee and Congressman of Georgia’s 5th district, John Lewis; and famous director director, producer, writer and actor, Spike Lee just to name a few.
Topics for the afternoon included education, the job market, civil rights, the future of today’s youth, and realizing Dr. King’s dream. The discussion kicked off with the question of how African-Americans can invigorate their community in terms of jobs and wealth, seeing as though more than half of African-American’s wealth has been wiped out due to the recession, according to the host of the discussion, Roland Martin, nationally syndicated columnist.
One of the panelists responded by saying, “we need to support each other’s businesses.”
They went on to say that more progress could be made if African-Americans purchased from others within the community. Others chimed in with their opinions about how African-Americans can make adjsutments in the recession as far as finding success in the job market.
Georgia State Representative Alisha Thomas Morgan said that people need to “change their mindset.” She went on to say that the years of traditionally working to retire with a pension are not as common now as it was in the past.
“Invest in entrepeneurs,” she added. “Learn how to make money for yourself. We have to make sure tha tour workforce is prepared.”
Congressman John Lewis, who actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement alongside Dr. King, said that Dr. King’s speech also referred to a dream with an equal and thriving job market for African-Americans.
“Forty years later, millions of people are out of work,”said Congressman Lewis, adding that we should go to the government and announce, “we want jobs, we want to work, put our people to work.”
When the topic changed to education, it was stated that on average, African-american children fo to kindergarten without even knowing 150 words, leading to the question presented to the panel – should teachers or parents be held responsible for the lower rates of educated children.
Lee spoke in response to the question, saying that the problem lies within the image surrounding intelligence.
We live in a world that [says] if you are a child that speaks English correctly, you are labeled as white boy, white girl, or Oreo,” said Lee. “It’s suicide for us to make fun of young Black minds.”
Clayton stated that there is a disconnection between those that associate themselves with Dr. King and those that actually follow his beliefs.
“Dr. King believed that you have to change a man’s heart before you change his behavior,” said Clayton. “We can be the agentof change. We need action in our communities.”
Published in the August 2011 Issue of the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists Byline