King’s dream 50 years on

Fifty years after a speech that helped change the face of racial segregation in the USA and colonialism in Africa, nightmares loom as large as dreams in the homelands of the holy trinity of non-violence, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, says correspondent TREVOR GRUNDY

Martin Luther King - symbol of an America waiting to be born in 1963 - a corpse five years later.
Martin Luther King – symbol of an America waiting to be born in 1963 – a corpse five years later.

It’s all so different now, we’re told. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s historic “I have a dream” speech in Washington DC on August 28, 1963 America has a black president and codified racial discrimination has disappeared.

But as economic stagnation throttles the life out of the poorest people in the world’s richest nation, anger swells up. Dreams turn into nightmares.

Young people in America and other parts of the world are hungry for change, writes entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte in “The Observer.”

The struggle

“I can feel it is in the air when I speak at colleges all over America. People have once again had enough. Americans are opening their eyes to those in America who work tenaciously to keep the country in this state of aggression and hostility and obsession with being number one. There is a cruelty about American politics and society that dumbfounds me,” he says.

And at a time when the black working class is forced to run in order to stay in the same place in several disintegrating USA cities – Detroit the worst – the singer who bewitched the world with “Island in the Sun” said “The truth is that right now, we are more villainous than we are righteous.

“Black people are still bearing the brunt of the villainy, but today the prism through which we must view that struggle is not just race, it is gender, it is human rights, it is the growth of powerful elites and populist right-wing movements that seem to undermine American democracy while peddling their version of America the great.”

Belafonte was with a number of other celebrities the day Martin Luther King stunned the world with his speech about memories, hopes and dreams. They included Sammy Davis Jr, Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando and 250,000 unknown Americans.

Damned good

After the speech, President Kennedy said –“It was good. Damned good.” The FBI’s assistant director of domestic intelligence Wiliam Sullivan was also impressed. “We must mark King down now as the most dangerous Negro of the future of this nation,” he said. King was shot dead in April 1968.

But on August 28, 1963 not all Americans appreciated being told to dream. Anne Moody, a black activist who made the trip to Washington DC from Mississippi, recalled “I sat on the grass and listened to the speakers, to discover we had dreamers instead of leaders leading us. Just about every one of them up there was dreaming. Martin Luther King went on talking about his dream and I sat there thinking that in Canton we never had time to sleep, much less dream.”

Harry Belafonte believes today that King’s speech changed Africa as well as America.

After the war, when so many black Americans and Africans fought against Hitler, men and women returned home to find they were second, third, fourth class citizens.

Says Belafonte: “Black people were denied their basic rights. Then we looked around us and saw that England, Belgium and France, the great colonizers, were hanging onto their colonies”. What might King have said if he was alive today?

Gandhi’s India

I have a nightmare that impoverished Indians will never rise up (peacefully , of course) and equalize the three million householders with excess of $100,000 investible funds, while one in four Indians goes to bed hungry or starving and when every second child in the land is underweight.

His own America

I have a nightmare that America’s first black president will never stop pandering to right-wing extremists in Israel, never stop using drones to attack (sometimes civilian) targets in the Middle East and Afghanistan and never have the guts or political acumen to stop supermarkets and grocery firms selling assault weapons to de-ranged members of the American public.

Mandela’s Africa

I have a nightmare that the sycophantic and increasingly corrupt elite running the African National Congress will never stop using the name Nelson Mandela as a blind to cover their own nefarious business activities which have turned once sincere and dedicated men and women into multi billionaires while most South Africans aren’t much better off than they were during the worst days of apartheid.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe

I have a nightmare that Robert Mugabe will remain in office until the day he dies, and rip apart the once seamless cloak of national unity by refusing to ask forgiveness for the monstrous Gukuuhundi against the people of Matabeleland or for the destruction of hundreds of thousands whose homes, lives and businesses he has so systematically wrecked over the decades while stealing the nation’s wealth.

Post published in: Analysis

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