DENVER (FinalCall.com) – A Who’s Who list of spiritual leaders, politicians, activists and actors paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and commemorated the 45th Anniversary of the March on Washington with a Unity Prayer Breakfast at the Colorado Convention Center.
Civil rights pioneers and children of that movement marveled Aug. 28 at the rise of Sen. Barack Obama. Martin Luther King, III pointed out that the nation often forgets part of his father’s “I Have a Dream Speech” that referenced a check marked insufficient funds from the federal treasury, as the senior King highlighted the need for social services, healthcare and quality education.
“I feel good, cautiously optimistic, we will elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. But that does not address the fact that there are over two million people in jail and almost a million of those are Black folk. We make up 13, 14, 15 percent of the population but almost 60, 70, 80, 90 percent of the jail population … There’s something wrong with that,” Mr. King III said.
The president is important because he shares the people’s vision and implements priorities through Congress, but citizens have to do their part to achieve the realization of the King dream, he continued.
“When we have decent health care for all, jobs for all who want to work, decent housing, the highest caliber of education and justice for all Americans, then we will be close to the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said the son of the late civil rights leader.
Actor LeVar Burton moderated the program, “A Tribute to the Movement & the Man.” Among speakers were Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.); Rev. Joseph Lowery, a disciple of Dr. King and former Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader; Juanita Abernathy, wife of the late Ralph Abernathy; Bernice King, Dr. King’s daughter; Martin Luther King, III; Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network; and Charles Steele of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Also present were the legendary actress Cicely Tyson, Urban League President Marc Morial, NAACP President Benjamin T. Jealous and Clayola Brown, president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
Rep. Lewis was called the last surviving speaker out of 10 who spoke at the March on Washington.
“If someone had told me that day, that one day 45 years later we would be here in Denver making a down payment on that dream, I would have said ‘oh, no,’ ” Rep. Lewis said. He urged action and voter registration to fulfill the Dream by helping elect Sen. Obama.
Rev. Joseph Lowery was unsure of whether Sen. Obama’s acceptance speech on the 45th anniversary of the march was providential or coincidental. “While it’s not the fulfillment of the dream, it is a step in that direction. I thank God for it and I hope America will be energized by this new burst of spirituality and vote to extend the work of King through Barack Obama for at least another four years and we can seek peace, justice, an end to poverty and war,” he said.
Rev. Sharpton noted many engaged in civil rights battles today were not at the march, but still fight for the same things. “They keep talking in the media about passing the baton. The only baton that we will pass is from George Bush to Barack Obama on January 20, 2009. It is important that those of us engaged in civil rights this time, whether it be Jena 6, police brutality, corporate discrimination, that we remember that the weapons used 45 years ago were nonviolence, racial reconciliation and that the moral code was the weapon that no one could refute,” he said.
“The threat to the dream today is not only those in power, but those of us that have surrendered, that now think it’s fashionable to exploit our pain, rather than relieve it. We can’t be dreamers challenging the system and walking away from the babies that we make. There’s a double responsibility for society and us at the same time,” Rev. Sharpton said.
The Boeing Company sponsored the breakfast, which featured a recitation of “I Have A Dream” by actress Alfre Woodard and actor Blair Underwood. Boeing also donated $1 million to help build the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“Time for a change means to me that there’s an automatic assumption of superiority on some people’s parts with no foundation for it,” said actor Louis Gossett, Jr. “We go around the world trying to push democracy, which is beautiful, but our backyard is dirty.”