“I have a dream.”
These words ring in our popular culture with the regularity of the Harkness Tower bells. During every Black History Month, and on the third Monday of January, the phrase rests neatly below Dr. King’s iconic bust and in essays written by schoolchildren across the country. These words, like all sayings that become cliché, have lost much of their awe.
Recently, in memory of Dr. King’s legacy, I decided to read the text of his most famous speech. I mouthed the words as I read them, hoping to invoke some of the spirit they carried.
“Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children,” King said. “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”
This passage is perhaps not the most widely cited excerpt from King’s historic speech. Yet it offers a message as powerful and accessible today as it was many decades ago.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. This day affords us, as both a nation and a series of communities, a special opportunity: introspection. Today, we should be reminded of the tragedies our nation has weathered in the name of civil rights. We should be reminded of the race riots in Los Angeles. We should be reminded of the various incidents and injustices that affect African Americans today: hyper-sexualization, marginalization, discrimination. We should be reminded of the hatred that spread across the globe after an otherwise normal African American teenager was murdered two February’s ago.
But we should also remember the ways that Dr. King’s message has reverberated throughout history, echoed by the men and women with whom I share a campus, from the unified efforts of our student body after the death of Trayvon Martin to the Black Student Alliance’s efforts to bridge between Yale and New Haven. On our campus, these are but a few examples of individuals and communities doing their part to move our country to the rock of brotherhood
As I reflected on these accomplishments, I began to realize how little time I spent achieving my own goals in the name of progress. As the Yale community reflects on this historic anniversary, we must reflect on the ways we can continue to hoist the banner of progress, equality and brotherhood for the entire country to rally behind.
In that spirit, we should reflect on Dr. King’s call for every individual to move, and give our city the tools to make that vision a reality. As a community, we should focus on continuing to improve and increase the resources available to New Haven citizens, not just enrolled Yale students. We must maintain a strong relationship between Yale students and the students that populate our local schools. We should ensure that University resources are accessible to both students and locals, allowing us to better prepare the next generation for service. Through voter registration drives and transportation initiatives, we should work to improve the political and academic literacy of our community.
Additionally, we should strive to redefine the Yale community. Yes, Yale is home to some of our country’s most intelligent students, most resourceful organizations and most dedicated minds. But, today, we should define ourselves less by our multiplicity of interests, and more by a common dedication to our city at large. We would be remiss not to give back. On this historic landmark in American history, we must stand together, united in our desires for a brighter future, and combine our individual brilliance into the shining pole-bearers of our national endeavor.
Tahj Blow is a sophomore in Say- brook College. Contact him at tahj. firstname.lastname@example.org .