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Sister Anita Baird, DHM, is the founding director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Racial Justice, now closed, which oversaw the Archdiocese’s initiatives to eradicate racism in its structures and institutions. She is a member of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a religious congregation.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Dream Still Lives

On January 18 the City of Chicago hosted the 27th Annual Interfaith Breakfast honoring the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who would be 84 years of age if not for an assassin’s bullet that struck him down at the tender age of 39.

This drum major for freedom continues to preach the gospel of love in the hearts of all people of good will the world over who embrace a creed of non-violence in the cause of justice and equality.

One of Dr. King’s protégés, John Lewis (D-GA), was the keynote speaker at this year’s prayer breakfast. Congressman Lewis is an iconic figure in the annals of the struggle for Civil Rights, having been beaten nearly to death as he led the March from Selma to Montgomery AL over the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965 when the marchers were viciously attacked by Alabama state troopers in what has become known as “Bloody Sunday.” This event became the turning point in the struggle for Voting Rights in this country leading to the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by President Lyndon Johnson.

Forty-eight years after “Bloody Sunday” Congressman Lewis is still on the battlefield fighting every day in the halls of congress on behalf of equal justice for all people, especially the poor and disenfranchised.

Being in the presence of such an historical figure was a reminder of the price that has been paid for freedom and equality in this country.

As another great American once said, “the torch has been passed to a new generation.” Congressman Lewis reminds us that the torch that Dr. King held high on August 28, 1963 is still burning bright and must not be allowed to smolder or be extinguished. The light of Dr. King’s dream must continue to burn brightly until every human being is guaranteed the right to life from the womb to the tomb; until every immigrant has secured a just and realistic path to citizenship; until young children can feel safe once again in classrooms across America; and until the lives of young black and brown youth, who are being slaughtered on the streets of Chicago, Detroit, Newark, and in inner-city neighborhoods across this country, are equally valued and protected from the violence and blood-shed that continues to plague poor and underserved communities.

The light of Dr. King’s dream cannot be allowed to smolder and die as long as women and children are being abused and exploited; as long as people’s right to vote is being infringed upon; as long as justice is blind for some and not for others; as long as one solitary life is devalued.

Twenty-thirteen provides us with a clarion call to wake-up and get-up as we mark the anniversaries of some historic benchmarks in the struggle for justice.

Twenty-thirteen marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation; the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church killing four little girls in Birmingham AL; and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Fifty years after Dr. King dreamed of a better America Barack Obama will be sworn in for the second time as president of the United State of America, and for the first time in the history of inaugurations a non-ordained person by the name of Myrlie Evers-Williams will give the invocation fifty years after the assassination of her husband, Medgar Evers, in Jackson MS.

The dream has been passed to a new generation and we must insure that Dr. King’s death and the death of countless men and women; Catholic, protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and those who claimed no faith accept a belief that “all are created equal”; are not in vain for the sake of generations to follow.

I will be in Washington DC on August 28, 2013 and while the voice of Dr. King has been silenced, I will join my voice to those voices of the millions who carry the torch for freedom today knowing that the dream has yet to be fulfilled for many.

Men and women of faith will gather on August 28 holding the light of the dream “that one day, every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

I hope to see you there.

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