August 28th marked 57 years since more than 200,000 people converged on the National Mall for what was then called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Some of the biggest icons of the civil rights movement helped to organize this event. John Lewis, whom we lost earlier this year was among them. All these years later, a new march was staged. Some attended in person and others participate virtually. And this time the focus was on law enforcement reform and voting rights.
What we remember most from that first march was Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. I believe in the transformative power of dreams. When one dreams like Dr. King did, it is more than something one thinks about, it is something one feels in one’s bones and one’s heart. A deeply held dream can serve as a compass for one’s life. It can focus the work that we do and how we spend our time. Not only can a dream imbue us with hope for the future, but it can also instill within us “power for the present.”
As an immigrant, dreams brought me to this country. As a first-generation college student, dreams fueled my passion for success in the halls of academia. As a black man who has been detained by police for just sitting in a train station. who was handcuffed to the wall in a holding cell for an unpaid parking ticket (about which I knew nothing) and who was searched and questioned for hours at an airport in a case of mistaken identity, dreams have kept me hopeful.
I found myself moved to tears several times this week. When I first heard about the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake. And, when I heard his family talk about his injuries. When I heard Doc Rivers, coach of the LA Clippers and the son of a one-time police officer say, “It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.” When I heard Dom Smith, first baseman for the Mets, my favorite baseball team and the team considered the heir to Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers say, “People don’t care.” And when I read about the new NPR/Ipsos poll that found that, despite everything that has happened in the past four month, just 36% of those polled said they had taken concrete action to better understand racial issues. White people were the least likely to have done so, at just 30%. The poll found huge disparities between African Americans and white respondents on the issue of reparations, support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and opinions about policing, including beliefs that police treatment of African Americans will improve. For true progress to be realized, people from all backgrounds need to be invested.
And yet, despite the tears shed this week, I still dream. I dream about the common good, about a good society founded on values of equity, equality, democracy and justice. I dream about a community where people from a variety of different backgrounds can come together, learn from each other and nurture ambitions for a fuller humanity. But I do more than dream. I work in education helping a diverse population of young people to build bridges of mutual respect and understanding. I get informed about candidates running for political office and I support those whose views align with my values. I vote. I support black businesses. And I have joined a movement.
What are you still dreaming about?