Journalist Roland Martin criticized the notion that Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream has been fulfilled with the election of President Obama, noting much work still needs to be done for economic and racial equality in America.
Martin, addressing about 100 people at Tulane’s McAlister Auditorium on Jan. 20, also encouraged financial support for a new memorial to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Martin spoke at the 24th annual MLK Week for Peace Convocation, held jointly by Dillard, Xavier, Tulane and Loyola universities.
Martin said he doesn’t like the T-shirts with pictures of both Obama and King that have the title “A Dream Fulfilled.” He said economic issues must be addressed, young black men must be saved, and all of the work starts with each American becoming more accountable and committed.
He said many people quote the “I Have a Dream” speech without realizing that the most popular component was a repeat of other speeches that King inserted when singer Mahalia Jackson said, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” Roland said the actual title of the speech is really “Normalcy, Never Again,” and the focus was on economic justice and racial equality for black Americans.
Today, Martin said, “We need to bring the economy and the dream together.”
Martin said when a black man is upset about an issue, he’s labeled “angry” and people want to call security. But when a white man is upset about an issue, he’s considered “passionate.”
He said African-Americans want to take racial issues to the White House, but the “issues begin with us” – with individuals and among each other.
Martin said black youth too often wait for someone to give them permission to lead, but black predecessors just did what was necessary. He urged everyone to stop complaining and start acting.
“What about your fellow classmates?” he asked. “What about accountability for others?”
He suggested starting with the one-day commitment many students made for service in commemoration of the King holiday. Then he suggested staying committed 365 days a year, as was King. That way, he said, the next King celebration will be a re-commitment instead of one day of service.
Regarding the memorial, Martin asked the audience how many had donated to the planned Washington memorial; in response, about 20 people raised their hands.
Martin said $106 million has been raised so far, but another $14 million is required. He said groundbreaking is planned for December, with completion expected by July 2011. He asked everyone to donate to the project, which will be a granite sculpture of the civil rights leader standing between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials on the Mall. For more information, go to www.mlkmemorial.org and www.buildthedream.org .
(Frank Delaney contributed to this article.)