Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout his lifetime advocated for a fair and equitable community.
The MSR, in past years, has asked local officials and others to share their thoughts on Dr. King’s dream, as we annually recognize his legacy each January. This year, however, we spoke to three South High School students, all born at least three decades after King’s death. All three told us that King’s dream is still very much alive:
“My biggest dream for the community is [for] all the little kids that don’t have guidance, don’t have both of their parents or [don’t have] too many people in their lives — I hope they find a good path to follow.
“I hope they don’t end up on a path like a parent in jail or anything. I hope they end up staying in school and fight through the stress and the neglect they’ve been through,” 16-year-old Diamond Dortch of Minneapolis stressed. Too many youngsters are unfairly “categorized as hood rats, that ignorant Negro,” she pointed out.
“Dr. King had a dream, and I have a dream that my kids won’t be judged by their [skin] color but by the content of their character,” 15-year-old Tiger Worku of Minneapolis reiterated. “I feel that if we can get to a world in 30 years, even a hundred years, to when we don’t discriminate against people based on the color of their skin or assume their positions based on the color of their skin that would solve a lot of the problems right now facing the United States.
“My dream is to see communities treated equally — not only equally but also with equity. Our community needs equity. That’s my dream,” Worku added.
The oft-repeated notion about absentee Black fathers bothers him, however. “There are a lot of Black fathers who are already there for their children. It’s not that they don’t love their children but it’s the country we live in today. It’s hard for Black men to provide for [their] family, and come home safely without being harassed by police officers,” Worku said.
“ He didn’t do all that just to have this Black-on-Black crime — Black neighborhoods killing each other.”
Dr. King was “one of those one-in-a-million people,” 17-year-old Clinton Mosley III, Minneapolis stated. “I believe he was an inspirer for his people, but he wasn’t the only one leading marches back then.”
King’s work still means a lot today “and [for] people maybe 50 years from now,” he pointed out. “I believe we can take some of his doings and sayings back then, and apply them to how it is right now. He didn’t do all that…just to have this Black-on-Black crime — Black neighborhoods killing each other. He wanted us to band together…make a better and wider path for us to succeed in life. If we adopt his traits back then, we can have a better future now.”
Dortch said that too many young people of color, especially pre-teenagers, are “left alone, neglected. Their parents have gone to jail or they have siblings that are on drugs. They are not in a good environment — people are in and out of the house. I hope they can find a way through that and be successful.”
As a result, Dortch proposes a new system for youngsters who find themselves in troubled situations beyond their control, but not a modified foster care system. Rather “a shelter for [ages] 10 and up” that these young people could live and flourish while they attend school, she noted.
She also advocated lowering the minimum age a young person can legally work from the current age 15. This would allow young people the opportunity to work “at least two hours [a day] and can have a little money in their pocket.”
Worku referred to a recent song, “I’m Not Racist” by Joyner Lucas that speaks on today’s world: “It shows a two-sided perspective of how White people may view African Americans, and [why] African Americans feel the way they feel,” he explained.
Although the song on the outset appears negative in tone, “It is important to acknowledge that it’s there. There is a negative light that faces our community. I would like that to be changed,” Worku continued.
Dortch bemoaned, however, that some communities have drifted far away from Dr. King’s dream. “I feel there is a lot of stuff that goes on with teenagers and young kids,” she said. “We got teenagers out here killing themselves. Dudes are out here buying guns. You see a lot of drug dealing.”
Dortch painfully recalled when a young girl’s life was senselessly taken. “She got shot in the face just for walking home at night. She wasn’t doing anything to anybody, or in a gang. We are killing our own people. We are making ourselves the enemy. We are making an army against ourselves. We are making it easy for the cops and White people who are racist and do want us dead, doing their jobs for them.”
Worku wants an end to systemic racism and a “messed up judicial system” — “I think we are 300 years behind in this country,” he said.
Finally, these three young people all said they believe that Dr. King’s dream is achievable. “My end goal, my dream on what I plan on working toward in the future, is to make sure that the discrimination ends in our community. We can’t always completely change White people’s perspective — there are White people who hate us. But when it gets into the legal system and it hurts us that way” that bothers him and he wants to see things changed, Worku concluded.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.