by George R. Williams, Ph.D.
There are many perspectives on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Perspectives about which we continue to explore, write and speak. Pastor of the people, Philosopher of non-violence, Ph.D. in theology, Peacemaker of Nobel Prize quality, Protester of racial injustice, Councilor to Presidents and a Promoter of economic equality; responsibilities he shared not only for people of color, but for people of all color.
A Father’s Dream
And in all that I’ve stated we often miss a foundational part of who this man was. He was a father to his children. He was a father who had a dream for his children. And in his own words he said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.” His dream simply stated -that his children would have a better quality of life than he had experienced. But, this father didn’t just dream it, he gave his life to see that dream fulfilled.
Dr. King pursued this dream because the conditions of the time were unacceptable for him, his children and his people. A time not so far in the distant past but has become a forgotten nightmare for many of our current generation. We cannot forget that there was a time our children would not be served at certain restaurants. We cannot forget that there was a time our children did not have access to the best education. We cannot forget that there was a time separate drinking fountains and restrooms were mandated by law. We cannot forget “Colored balconies” in movie theaters. We cannot forget there was time that our children had to sit in the back of the bus. We cannot forget there was a time that soldiers had to be ordered to protect little children who were trying to go to a “better” school. We cannot forget because these hidden attitudes of inequality and inhumanity still exist.
Dr. King and many others shared that same dream and took a non-violent but opposing stand against the social injustices to pursue the dream for themselves and their children. In the face of personal, lost through violence sparked by racism and discrimination, they stood. In the face of the lynchings, the imprisonment, the crushing blow of water from fire hoses, the terror of attack dogs, death threats, firebombs, burning crosses, harsh and inhumane insults, fists of fury, nightsticks and guns. They stood not only for themselves but also for the future generations, their children.
They demanded better for their children. They were ready to pay the price. They understood the far-reaching impact of injustice and wanted it stopped right there, right now.
Today our children are in crisis. We see a generation whose identity is dictated by a culture who is searching and never finding themselves, never finding a purpose that is not fleeting. And the results are catastrophic. From ages eight and eighteen we see increases in school absenteeism and drop outs, sexually transmitted diseases, children having children, succumbing to the lure of alcohol and drug abuse, emotional problems that lead to gang affiliation, senseless violence and suicide. We cry out, “What is happening to our children?”
Sacrificing for the Dream
We should then ask “What will we do about it?” Do we want better for our children? Are we ready to pay the price? Are we fed up with social mayhem? Sacrifice is the forfeiting of something highly valued for the sake of one who is to have greater value.
any of us agree that the greatest demonstration of love is for someone to sacrifice his or her life for another. But these sacrifices must not largely involve money or material goods but a heart that is turn to the children. The increase of father absence is evidence that many are choosing instead to sacrifice their children. We must get a vision for a new dream.
The first dream of the civil rights movement we must continue to pursue. But we must also pay heed to a second dream. Because if this second dream is not envisioned and fulfilled then their will be no one to enjoy the rights attained by the first. It is like the saying, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Exactly, what good is it to a man to gain the benefits of civil rights if they cannot be passed on to the next generation?
The Second Dream
I have a dream
that one day on the hills of any state
the sons and daughters of present fathers
And the sons and daughters of absent fathers
will be able to sit down together at the table with the whole family
I have a dream that all black children
will one day livein a nation
where they will not be fatherless
by a man who did not give a damn
but fathered by a man who loves them
with the strength and depth of God’s love.
Fathers who sacrifice for their children understand the value of their presence in their child’s life. They understand that whether present or absent good or bad they will make a permanent impact on the children. And they choose to be a permanent positive impact.
The father must understand that he is more than a financial provider. The father helps to form his child’s identity. He helps the child in discovering his or her purpose in life. And has a starring role in supporting his children, mentally, emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. He teaches; morally and spiritually guides, encourages, gives praise, hugs and kisses and says, “I love you just because you’re mine.”
A Call to Action
Let’s sacrifice for the dream that benefits our children. Let that dream be that each child in our communities has a father or father-figure who lovingly and actively engages in that child’s life. Let’s call on everyone from every sector of our community to make this dream a reality. It begins in our own homes with our own children. It ends in the homes of the children of the fatherless. It ends in the homes of the children who are fatherless. This is sacrificing for the Dream!