Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I've Seen The Promised Land

In case you haven't heard, today (August 28) marks the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. Today is also history making in that we will for the first time in American history have a black man accept the nomination for Presidency for a major political party. Tonight Barack Obama will deliver his speech officially accepting the nomination. This is one for the history books. So because of the significance of today I thought it would be a terrific time to discuss Martin and Coretta Scott King and their influence on African-American civil rights; Bayard Rustin and his influence on the lgbt fight for equality; and Barack and Michelle Obama and their achievement of the dream (and their promise to continue to fight for equality for all).

Dr. King knowingly sacrificed his life in the fight for equality. I think he knew his days were numbered when he delivered these famous words, "I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land." A history of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow would come to an end thanks to Martin and the many civil rights leaders that sacrificed their lives.

So I get angry today when I continue to see young black men and women that drop out of school showing no interest in obtaining the education that people have bleed, cried, and died for. I get angry when people say they don't vote when our ancestors prayed to one day have a say in the process that would legislate the laws that shaped their lives. I get angry when I learn that people don't know about the imporance of Brown vs. the Board of Education, have no idea who Chief Justice Earl Warren is, and don't know what President Lyndon Johnson did for the Civil Right's movment.

In his famous speech Dr. King cried out "let freedom ring . . . if America is to be a great nation this must become true." And 45 years later we've almost made it to the promised land. A black man is the Democratic party's nominee for President of these United States of America. Barack Obama who speaks with the elogance and enthusiasm of King himself will speak tonight symbolizing a dream personified. And I'm not ashamed to say that today I've cried several times listening to Dr. Kings speech and reflecting on images and words of Barack. And though were still on that quest for equality for all, the road we've traveled has brought us very far.

Many people are unaware of the fact that this historic speech may not have happened if not for Bayard Rustin. Openly gay Rustin was an advisor to Dr. King and was the organizer of the March on Washington that led to Dr. King's famous oratory on the lawn of the nation's capital. He was the person that taught Martin the principles of non-violent demonstations. Unfortunately his name is rarely mentioned in Civil Rights discussions or conversations about Dr. King. But Bayard too should be recognized today. His role in our history can not be minimalized and I refuse to allow us to keep this hero invisible. Bayard's contributions to the Civil Right's movement are extremely significant and I think it's imporant to say the I Have a Dream Speech probably would not have happened without him.

There are many that compare the current lgbt struggle for equality with the civil rights struggle. There are also many that say this comparison is not valid. Well Coretta Scott King (Dr. King's widow) made it clear in this statement "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. ... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Coretta was a champion for all human rights and she demanded that gays and lesbians be granted the same rights as everyone else (including the right to marry).

We've had many emotional moments at the Democratic National Convention this week. But the thing I'm loving the most is Michelle Obama's and Clintons' inclusion of the LGBT community in everything. In Michelle's phenomenal speech she talked of her husband's plan to end Don't Ask Don't Tell and implementing an ENDA (Employment Non-Discriminaton Act) that would protect all of our rights. Bill Clinton spoke of an administration that would address the issue of HIV/ AIDS "here at home." I've had several moments this week where I've thrown things at the TV in excitement of something I heard.

Please take some time to appreciate the significance of this day and this week. Dr. King said he wouldn't make it to the promised land with us. We lost Coretta Scott King several years ago and with her death we also lost an ally and a hero in the struggle. We lost Bayard in 1987 and and that too was the loss of a leader, an ambassador, and a champion. But today we have Barack. And tonight we'll witness history.

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