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Reflection of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech

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Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “I Have A Dream” speech.

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Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Dr. King’s speech was a pivotal moment for the Civil Rights Movement, and has influenced generations long after that historical moment on the National Mall.  To watch videos and view photographs from that day and to hear his strong voice declare the dream he had for this country truly sends chills down one’s spine.  Dr. King was a masterful speaker, and that speech solidified his importance to not only civil rights, but being considered a leader throughout the world because his message was universal to all.

Growing up post-Civil Rights Movement era, I learned from an early age how significant Dr. King’s legacy was to not only African Americans, but to all Americans who fought tirelessly to ensure that all people had the same basic human rights.  Dr. King’s speech showed us that it’s okay to dream of a world that may not exist at that moment.  During that time, African Americans, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and the poor were fighting for a place at the table of equality when they’ve been historically denied, discriminated against, and mistreated because of what and who they were.  Dr. King’s speech told us that dreaming is the way for us to envision a world that, if we work together, can become reality.  Dr. King’s speech was for equal rights and opportunities of everyone; to be judged by the content of your character and not from what made you different from your neighbor or the majority.  Though Dr. King did not his dream take form during his lifetime, we have been fortunate to experience his dream 50 years later.  Though there still remains a long path for us to travel for all to be judged by our character alone, the fact that Dr. King’s speech helped us to begin on that path is undeniable.

Dr. King’s speech lives in me as I make my way to fight for equal opportunities and justice for people with disabilities in America and abroad.  Being a triple minority – African American, female, and disabled – I know that there are obstacles in my path because of the prejudices that some hold about the groups I’m a member of.  Being aware of those prejudices doesn’t make me anger; it makes me proactive and passionate about spearheading change.  I’m proactive about getting the voices of minorities and women with disabilities into the consciousness of society.  I’m proactive about being politically active so that I can demand that those who serve as politicians hear the voices of the voiceless in our society.  I’m passionate about shattering glass ceilings of what disability looks like by pursuing my education, being an entrepreneur, being politically involved, being an aspiring children’s picture book author, and ensuring that my voice and experiences are heard and respected.  I’m passionate about being a leader and history maker, and not being viewed as a victim because I’m disabled.  I’m only a victim if I believe that’s what I am.  I want to urge others to view themselves as powerful and as victors because no one can take away your importance or power without your permission.

Needless to say, Dr. King’s dream resonates deeply within me and the work that I set forth to do.  How does Dr. King’s dream live within you?  I would love to hear your own accounts of what today’s remembrance of the speech and march on Washington means to you and your dreams.

(Featured image:  Courtesy of Pixabay.)

This newspaper clipping appeared in the Tuesday, Aug. 27th, 2013 edition of the Herald Independent, the main newspaper in my hometown. Featured in this clipping are myself and fellow members of the Fairfield County Democratic Party. On Tues., Aug. 20th, 2013, we presented Superintendent Dr. J. R. Green and members of the Fairfield County School Board with school supplies to be distributed among teachers in the area's public schools. Our donation was our way of giving back to the community. Being affiliated with an organization like FCDP and being recognized as a proactive resident in my community is one way I'm branding myself as a proactive, socially conscious individual.

This newspaper clipping appeared in the Tuesday, Aug. 27th, 2013 issue of the Herald Independent, the main newspaper in my hometown. Featured in this clipping are myself and fellow members of the Fairfield County Democratic Party (FCDP). On Tues., Aug. 20th, 2013, we presented Superintendent Dr. J. R. Green and members of the Fairfield County School Board with school supplies to be distributed among teachers in the area’s public schools. Our donation was our way of giving back to the community, and taking part in the SC Democrats Care initiative. Being affiliated with an organization like FCDP and being recognized as a proactive resident in my community are just a few ways I’m branding myself as a proactive, socially conscious individual.

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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