A letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
A letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
In 1958, you were the speaker for my commencement ceremony at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff/AM&N.
You were only a few years older than most of us. Many of us had just returned from the Korean war.
You were very impressive. I still remember the title of your speech, "It's A Good Time to Be Alive." You told us about the Grecian, Roman and British cultures, but you stated that this was the best time to be alive because it offered so many opportunities for change.
As I watched the March on Washington and listened to your dream, my eyes were flooded with tears. As you laid out your dream for America and expounded upon the facts -- that all men were created equally and that they were endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among which were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, my heart beamed.
I was impressed and moved as you marched across the nation sharing your dream. But I must admit that 50 years later, we are still struggling to make your dream a reality.
I remember the struggles we had for voting rights.
I remember the unleashing of the dogs.
I remember the water hoses.
I remember the horses on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
We are still fighting for our constitutional rights to vote.
Dr. King, in 2014, there are those who say we must change the voting rules and laws because of voter fraud, and there are those who refuse to admit that changing the rules and laws leads to voter suppression.
No one said it was voter fraud when we had to pay a poll tax to be able to vote.
No one said it was voter fraud when we had to take a literacy test to be able to vote.
No one said it was voter fraud when we had to interpret the Constitution of the United States of America to be able to vote.
No one called it voter fraud when obstacles were manufactured for the sole purpose of creating voter suppression in order to receive a desired outcome.
In 1957, Dr. King, I paid my poll taxes to be able to vote, and I remember going to the poll on election day. They found my name in the book and gave me a ballot -- after I finished marking my ballot -- one of the officers snatched the ballot out of my hand and told me that if I were finished voting, I could hit the door.
After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, many African-Americans began to flock to the polls in great numbers.
Many African-Americans were being elected to positions that they had never held before. Dr. King, in 2008, the first black president of the United States was elected.
After the election of the first black president, voter suppression was perpetrated against minority voters. The power-to-be began redistricting congressional districts throughout the country to minimize the minority votes. Many states, not all Southern states, reduced the days for early voting.
On the inaugural day of the first black president, before he assumed office, congressional leaders met to make plans to insure that he would not succeed as president. The congressional leaders have tried to block every program that he has put forth, including his presidential appointments and his Affordable Healthcare Plan; this plan provided health care for all citizens.
When you came to Memphis in 1968 to help the sanitation workers, I was so proud to have marched with the sanitation workers wearing a sign that said, "I am a man."
After the tragedy that happened to you in Memphis, I joined the other march, led by Mrs. King, Robert Kennedy, Harry Belafonte, Burt Lancaster and Peter, Paul and Mary, just to name a few, I joined that march also. If I remember correctly, they were making less than $5 per hour.
In 2014, increasing the minimum wage is still being discussed.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Since you left us, the Catholic church has elected a pope who shares the same sentiments about the poor and the needy that you shared.
One of the things the president is pushing for is income equality -- and so is the Pope. Jesus was equally concerned about the poor and the less fortunate.
Dr. King, you were concerned about poverty. You were hoping to eliminate poverty in America.
There has been an effort to take away food stamps from the needy. And also an effort is being made to cut back on unemployment insurance for 1.4 million needy Americans, who are out of work.
Dr. King, in the last speech you made, you stated that you had been to the mountain top, and you had seen the promised land. You also stated that you might not get to the promised land with us, but we would get there.
We haven't gotten there yet, but the same God that brought Israel out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, through the wilderness, and across the Jordan River into the promised land, will help us get to the promised land.
Some look back and say how far we have come. I look forward to see how close we are to the promised land.
We will be celebrating your birthday on Monday, Jan. 20.
The Rev. Emmanuel Lofton