“Dr. King would be distraught in observing the status of poor people of all races, the continuing disenfranchisement of people of color, and the continuing existence of the glass ceiling for women in the 21st century,” said Tisdale. “I’m certain he’d ask the question: When is real change and true equality coming to America?”
Tisdale made his remarks to an enthusiastic and perceptive audience at the Durham E. Carter Community Center at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The capacity crowd included Mayor Stephen Benjamin and a host of elected officials and civic and religious leaders. Henri Baskins, chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation Committee, was the mistress of ceremony for the event which featured performances by Claflin’s Concert Choir and the Lower Richland High School Diamond Singers.
Tisdale cited many of the problems faced by America’s minorities back in the 1960’s still exist such as the ability to secure decent housing, equal salaries, quality health care, social justice and equality, and equal political influence and representation.
“When will the dream be fulfilled? That’s what Dr. King would ask,” said Tisdale.
Tisdale told the audience that King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington in 1963 is perhaps his most referenced speech. However, he pointed out that King gave a speech at Stanford University in 1967 that best affirms him as a true visionary and validates his legacy.
“Dr. King’s 1967 speech was titled “The Other America” in which he talked about class division and privilege. King stated that “there are literally two Americas – one that is beautiful and overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. And another America where millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America people are poor by the millions.”
Tisdale believes that Dr. King “went off script” in the speech and talked about the Vietnam War and how the war was diverting attention and resources from the Civil Rights Movement and the Great Society program designed to eliminate poverty.
“As soon as King started criticizing the economic imbalance and the U.S. government’s foreign policies and actions he was in big trouble,” said Tisdale. “As soon as Dr. King began calling on the U.S. government to invest in all the people, especially, poor peoples he was a man standing alone. So what would Dr. King say today?”
Tisdale listed how the nation’s leaders have failed to erase class division, mass incarceration of African-American men and women, expanded wealth gap between white and black households, and inequality in education. However, he also highlighted the seminal achievements of blacks, women and other minorities since Dr. King’s speech 50 years ago, culminating with Barack Obama being elected the 44th President of the United States.
“On that evening, we believed that it was a new day and that change had come to America. We had elected a Black man to be President,” said Tisdale. “Real change and true equality are still embedded in the America dream, if we have the courage, confidence and tenacity to fight for it. With faith in God, we must not despair but rise up and demand that America live up to its creed that all men and women are created equal.”