Author of ‘King—The Dream Revisited’ revisits work 20 years after debut
By Minister Servant LeRoy Page
Special to Frost Illustrated
After reading several newspaper articles and watching station after station of TV news reports concerning black on black crime and violence 20 years ago, I thought “What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X think if they were alive today?” That thought, repeated over and over and over again, led to a dream that very night that led to the play “King—The Dream Revisited.” The play debuted at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in April 1992 to a standing room only audience with a subsequent performance in September of the same year and two performances the following year at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis.
Now 21 years after “King—The Dream Revisited” and 50 years after the 1963 March on Washington, are we better off today than then? We certainly cannot argue the obvious success of multi millionaire individual entertainers, rappers, actors, actresses, athletes, mega churches, and the power of the ballot that elected America’s first black president. But still, as a whole, as a nation within a nation, are we as a people better off today than yesterday?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics/Department of Education:
• One in every 15 black men are incarcerated in comparison to one in every 106 white men.
• One in every three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
• Black youth have a higher rate of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison.
• Black women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated.
According to the Human rights Watch, from 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was black. The Sentencing Project reports felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their black population.
As of the end of July 2013, 12.6 percent of blacks were unemployed, compared to 6.6 percent of whites. The Chicago Tribune reports that black unemployment statistics is almost twice that of whites, the same since 1963.
And, let us never forget the injustice of the justice system that allowed George Zimmerman to walk free. At the same time we must stop the senseless self-genocide of young blacks killing young blacks perpetrated in our communities across America.
I hear many arguments, both pro and con, concerning Dr. King’s most famous speech—“I Have a Dream.” I have entertained as many arguments, both pro and con, concerning his nonviolent approach to right the wrongs of a system that championed taxation without representation, political oppression and economic exploitation as opposed to that of Malcolm’s (by any means necessary). I hear many arguments that say that we are progressing and as many that argue that we are regressing.
I’m reminded of Ezra 3:12:
“But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.”—(NIV)
The old looked back and wept when they thought about how far God had brought them and how magnificent the original temple Solomon had built was. The young looked forward and rejoiced regarding the new temple. They saw a new day, new beginnings. Although they had different experiences, they came together as one to build that new temple. What they had in common was struggle and what we have in common is struggle. They had been separated, exiled from something that they held dear. Although it would pale to the opulence of Solomon’s temple it still represented their true strength—God’s presence.
The foundation for the beloved of God had been laid and our foundation has been laid. Things will never get better if we depend on the labor, marches, prayers and lives lost of those that struggled many years before us. We must build on the foundation that they laid. We must learn from their struggles. We must never forget where we came from or the price that was paid. But, we must march forward with all the resources available, the vote, prayer, education, youth and legislation. We must work together young and old. We must return to Almighty God together and we must give thanks to the mighty God that sustains us and makes all things possible through our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us not concentrate too much on our past, at the expense of our future, or we will certainly rob ourselves of a glorious future.
Now notice what Ezra said in verse 13 of the same chapter after the coming together of the young and old:
“No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.”—(NIV)
In other words, the understanding of the importance of the work and desire to do it reached across generations.
If I were to write an updated version of “King—The Dream Revisited,” I think the question “what would they think if they were alive today,” would be reversed and they would be asking us the question: “What have you all done collectively since we were here?”
“Since the play, produced by Minister LeRoy Page, there has been a great decline in the overall dream that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about in 1963 that I heard at the age of 16. We are still being judged by color of our skin and we are as segregated from the American Dream (i.e., incomes, jobs, home ownership)—two nations, black and white, separate, hostile unequal. Race still remains an issue, in spite of having an African American as head of state.” —Dr. Junius Batten Pressey Jr., former President NAACP, Fort Wayne
“We are doing better as far as being able to live in nicer areas and go to places that may have been restricted in the past. However, we are less moral than we have ever been…
“The problem? A misguided effort. MLK’s heart was in the right place but the only thing he did was shame the enemy of an entire people into going underground. There is still raging racism in the work place, the housing market and in regular day to day life. Integration was most successful in its dismantling of black enterprise….
“Integration left poor blacks behind, it lured our lawyers, doctors and teachers away from their job of inspiring poorer neighbors to reach for higher heights. They ran away to suburbs to be hated and left children to be inspired, motivated and taught by addicts, dealers, whores and thieves. The black family and the mastery of the barter system was dissolved, leaving blacks without resource and now we fend for ourselves.” — Robert Middleton, Kansas City, Mo.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 4 print edition.