In light of last month’s celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the explosive comments spoken recently by another leader, the word “change” is weighing heavy on me today. I am old enough to remember the times of Dr. King and the change he dreamed of bringing to people of color and to all people of our country. I vividly remember the days of “white only” water fountains and restaurants, of “white only schools” …the way it was back then was not “the good ole days” nor is today as racism keeps raising its ugly head…I wonder, when will it really change?
On December 22, 1964 a song that I love, written by African American recording artist, Sam Cooke, was released after a painful incident when he and his wife were refused a hotel room while traveling though Louisiana. Although they had booked the hotel, once Cooke and his family appeared in person they were told the hotel was booked, which of course was not true. After some words with the manager they left and were arrested shortly after. That incident of humiliation must have been one of many that inspired Sam Cooke to write the song, “A Change is Gonna Come.” His song became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement as people of color dreamed of a better time, and believed that, “Change was going to come.” People gave their lives for that change, people were beaten and jailed for simply wanting change, change to be treated fairly and equal. The words written below, just as Sam Cooke wrote them, are just as powerful to me now as they were in 1964. To me, I read the phrase “I’ve been running ev’r since,” as a way to describe the racism of the times; running from the violence that fell upon many people of color during these turbulent years.
“I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ev’r since
It’s been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will”
So, here we are in 2018, and of course there have been some change in “rules.” No longer can you tell someone they can’t eat in a restaurant or go to a movie because of their skin color… but has “change” really happened? Do we really see people for who they are without thinking of black, brown or white? Do we truly give hope to the little children that with hard work and a dream they can be anything they dream to be? Do we, as a great melting pot of humanity, truly understand the wonderful gift of learning from other cultures? If not, we are failing to carry forward the dream of Dr. King and so many others.
Yes, there are people that never wanted this dream and would love to see it go away…they want to “change” back to the way of the past. It is imperative that we stand up to any thought of discrimination just because of a person’s color or place of birth or religious beliefs. Money doesn’t make one person better than another, race does not make a person better than others… it is WHO we are and what we do and what we stand for that truly matters. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life was taken but his voice has never been silenced. And now here we are again. Change will truly come when everyday people are willing to stand up for injustice and allow all voices to be heard… and “it has been a long time, a long time coming.”
Perhaps some of our modern-day leaders should take time to read these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech…let these words sink in…and then allow your voice to be heard.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.