Although I was not in Washington the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I have a dream speech”, I was one of many Anglos who dared to cross the Mason Dixon Line to battle in the trenches with Dr. King in the following years.
As we celebrate the anniversary of his epic intercourse on “human rights,” it is up to us who shed our blood and dodged the bullets, to continue to keep alive the true message that Dr. King pontificated. The motivation behind The Civil Rights movement was not just to protect the civil liberties of our black citizens, but all Americans. Dr. King’s work not only changed our social makeup and our legal system, it gave birth to an entirely new generation of citizen parliamentarians.
Prior to this, social and political change was something we could only dream about. The chances of a politician taking up your cause were “slim and none.” But when Dr. King echoed those words, "A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus," he ignited a fire that still burns within our souls: Instead of accepting the inevitable consequences of a broken system, we can indeed take control of our own future and change it.
Not only did the movement transform the consciousness of society by ending overt racism; it was the catalyst that brought a new awareness to our country. All of us, regardless of ethnicity, now realized that we entertained the same spiritual and social concerns for responsible management of our lives and shared equally congruent values.
Entire movements for change grew out of this courageous case for human rights and liberty. New citizen reformers quickly emerged from the embers of the fire that Dr. King had kindled. These pioneers emulated many of the same strategies, and tactics as those used in the Civil Rights Movement.
Mainstream politicians like Senator Robert Byrd, West Virginia, an admitted former member of the Ku Klux Klan, and Governor George Wallace of Alabama, a viciously self professed segregationist, eventually tried to distance themselves from their former explicitly racist platforms, and disguise their former agendas.
As Dr. King said, “Change does not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.” The Civil rights Movement indeed was the true birth of activism in our nation. Today, many of us same individuals who labored tirelessly working for change in the 60’s, are now leading some of the most aggressive movements for change in our country.
We now realize we no longer must accept the fate that a chosen few elitists have bestowed upon us. Through the legacy of Dr. King we have learned how to peacefully organize and battle the perfidious establishment and regain control of our lives and our country. And yes, our lives do “begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” And that, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
And we must never forget that, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Tennesseans Against Forced Annexation