In a steadily declining capitalist society, where liberalism, individualism and the forward-thinking notion of racial subtlety reigns supreme, it is very easy for the new-generation of African-Americans to forget. In a world, where dreams, for some, can no longer be deferred by the color of their skin but can become an ultimate reality because of the content of their character, the African-American forgets. The African-American, whether it be he or she, forgets that it was the dreams and lives of their ancestors that festered up like a sore, like a raisin in the sun, so that today, the African-American can bask in the possibilities that some of their predecessors thought unfathomable.
I am that African-American who has forgotten.
Yesterday, Wednesday, August 28th, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where hundreds, if not thousands of people, congregated at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate those who raised their voices against the racial and social injustices in America. The gathering, entitled as “Let Freedom Ring”, also honored and paid tribute to one of the most prominent martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his renown “I Have A Dream Speech”.
Organized by the 50th Anniversary Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom, the National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights organizations, the gathering included speeches from President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
A commemorative meeting of this magnitude was surely needed to honor such a prolific moment in history. After hearing the many speeches, I was invigorated with a new sense of passion, compassion and unending gratitude to those who walked before me.
But it is my duty as both journalist and political scientist to pose these questions to the new-generation of African-Americans: What happens after this? What happens when the march is over, the cameras are no longer rolling and the passion incited by the motivating speeches wears off? What happens when we fade into our regular lives and forget the price that was paid so that we too, can be America?
Forgetfulness. Complacency. Stagnation. Those are the answers. And honestly, I will say I have been guilty of all three. First and foremost, forgetfulness in the sense that at times, I am not fully cognizant of the sacrifices that were made by my ancestors. Complacency in the sense that I have partially bought into the lie that the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is completely accomplished and recognized, due to the integration or rather assimilation of African-Americans in American society. With this notion, it is easy for me to become mindless to the fact that Black Politics and the Civil Rights Movement are just as much needed today as it was in the 1960′s.
Now, this mindless, complacent thinking usually becomes awakened in me when visible and blatant forms of racism are exhibited within American society. (i.e. Travyon Martin) But after the out pour of emotions from the Black community—which includes disgust, anger and rage—after the rallies; the marches and the injustice-filled social media statuses; the race consciousness and the race awareness all becomes race memory as the hype dissipates. (i.e. Trayvon Martin)
Stagnation is the final answer to this issue as some, not all, African-Americans—including myself—are caught in this vicious cycle of marching and rallying and marching for the same problems that our foremothers and forefathers were marching and rallying for; and nothing revolutionary in the Black community has been accomplished since from it.
This cycle must be broken.
Yesterday called for more than just a mere Facebook status or tweet/Instagram photo to “shout-out” what happened fifty years ago. Yesterday called for the African-American to take introspect and reflect all the way to the beginning of the Black struggle until now. From indentured servitude to slavery; to the rape of our mothers; the whippings of our fathers to the molestation of our children to the lynching of our aunts and uncles, the African-American needs to remember.
Our roots in American history go deep, so we must remember those who entered institutions from the back; those who drank and ate in the colored section; the Freedom Riders who were spat on, mocked and maliciously beaten so that we, the old generation, the current, and the generations of African-Americans to come can have the liberties and freedoms that we so absent-mindedly take advantage of.
We must remember to be pro-active and consistent in the fight for Civil Rights—not just during February or when something goes disarray in our community but everyday because we are African-Americans in the truest sense because of our predecessors.
Though the celebration that was held on yesterday was not only for the African-American—it was for the Jew; the Hispanic and Latino; the White; the gay and the straight; male and female and the elderly and disabled—this celebration was significant for the African-American for this very reason: without the Struggle, there would have not been a Dream.
Let us not forget the struggle and the work that still needs to be done to make the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a fully manifested reality.