We Have Dreams: Some Thoughts on Intentional Dreaming on this MLK-Inauguration Day

On this inauguration morning and MLK day, I woke up with Anna Arnold Hedgeman on my mind. You may not know her but you should.

Image of Anna A. Hedgeman

Anna Arnold Hedgeman (1899-1990)

 

 Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the only woman to serve on the 1963 March on Washington planning committee. She was the first Black woman to serve in a New York Mayoral Cabinet, under the leadership Mayor Robert Wagner (1954-1958). She is an exemplar of Jacqueline Dowd Hall’s concept of “the long civil rights movement,” since she was one of the organizers for the first March on Washington Movement alongside A. Philip Randolph in 1941. The result of their efforts led President Roosevelt to establish the Federal Commission on Fair Employment Practices during WWII. Hedgeman went on to head the National Council for a Permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, which did important advocacy work to stop racial discrimination in federal employment.

 

Asked to serve with the Big Six (Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King, James Farmer, Whitney Young, and John Lewis) in planning the 1963 March, she found it incredibly disturbing that these men had not thought to include a “Negro woman” speaker at the march. Their initial plan was for Randolph to “ask several Negro women to stand while he reviewed the historic role of Negro women [and then] the women would merely take a bow at the end of his presentation.”

Pic of the Big Six

Big Six Civil Rights Leaders

 

She wouldn’t stand for it, and instead drafted a memorandum to the group, noting that “in light of the role of the Negro women in the struggle for freedom and especially in light of the extra burden they have carried because of the castration of the Negro man in our culture, it is incredible that no woman should appear as a speaker at the historic March on Washington Meeting at the Lincoln Memorial.”

She suggested that they ask either Myrlie Evers (widow of Medgar Evers) or Diane Nash Bevel, a young Civil Rights leader.

Roy Wilkins obliged her request. The wives of various Civil Rights leaders were asked to share the dais, Daisy Bates “was asked to say a few words,” and Rosa Parks was presented, Hedgeman notes, “almost casually.”

Having participated in the March on Washington Movement from beginning to end, her impressions of that glorious day on the Lincoln Memorial are richly instructive for us today. After listening to Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech she wrote:

“Martin Luther King, slim, young and with a composure beyond his years, in that moment reminded me of another, young, slim, poised American, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his inaugural address. Both of these young men had somehow seemed to me to detach themselves from all sense of their own relationship to the past. President Kennedy had done it with his announcement that the young generation would establish the new frontier and Martin Luther King had seemed to bring the same message with his beautifully poetic description of his dream. I had written on the bottom of my inaugural program: “Dear Mr. Kennedy, your dream of a new frontier is bound up in the dreams of all men who have had a vision beyond the moment; a vision of some men in the world from the beginning of time.” I wanted desperately to say these same words to Martin Luther King, standing in front of 250,000 people who had come to Washington because they had a dream, and in the face of all the men and women of the past who have dreamed in vain, I wished very much that Martin had said, ‘We have a dream.’ (Hedgeman, The Trumpet Sounds, 1964, p. 189)

 

We have a dream.

Not until I read Hedgeman’s words as a graduate student, did I understand the simple profundity of her words or the politics of dreaming, particularly in public. It had never occurred to me to use a collective pronoun in thinking of King’s dream. It had never occurred to me to that folks other than Black Power figures had had serious critiques of King in that moment.

Hedgeman’s moxie and courage are a lesson to us today. As the initial inaugural crowds gather to celebrate President Barack Obama’s election to a second term, it is clear that there are far fewer folks than there were four years ago. Today, the shiny glow has worn off. We have chosen to stick with this leader despite our many disappointments, reservations, and anxieties about his leadership.

Four years ago, everyone was quick to compare President Obama to MLK. I have seen far fewer memes in this vein this year, even though he is being inaugurated on the day we celebrate all that Dr. King has meant to us.

So as I take time out today to watch the Inauguration, to celebrate with pride even, the Obamas’ return to the White House, I do it the spirit of Anna Arnold Hedgeman.

That means two things.

First, this is a day to dream again, to name very intentionally, the kind of future that we want to see America move toward. It is a day to recognize that Barack Obama stands where we he stands because of us and all those who came before us in the cause of justice. Therefore, despite being the leader of the free world, he in fact does not have a monopoly on the future. We can dream, too. And we should.

Second, we can have great respect for our leader and still critique his limitations in the spirit of love. Hedgeman did. She did it for the “great men” of her day, namely JFK and MLK. She recognized the chimeric qualities of charisma, and chose not to be seduced by it. Even still, she did not let go of her dream.

When I watch President Obama take the oath again today, and even as I sit right now and watch our beautiful First Family process into St. John’s Episcopal Church, I am beaming with pride.

I can’t help it. I know what he means to us.

President Obama dreaming…

But today,  I dream for a world with less war, less guns, less violence. I dream for a world where parents don’t lose children and where children don’t lose parents too soon.  I dream for a world where our national and collective contempt for inequality supersedes our national contempt for the unequal. I dream for a world where justice is not a pledge but a practice. I dream for a world that “loves mercy” even as it seeks to “do justice.” Even as President Obama lays his hand on MLK’s Bible today, I dream for a world where the Bible, esteemed alongside every other holy book, is a personally chosen guide for living not a culturally imposed guide for governance. I dream for a world in which every person has loving and sustaining community and every person has all sufficiency in food, resources, and work.

And I dream for leaders who know that our dreams are not devoid of politics.  These kinds of visions are not fantastical; they are tied to policies, advocacy and action that can be taken in the real world here and now, by them and by you and me.

 These are just a few of my freedom dreams. And I invite you on this MLK-Inauguration Day to share yours.

 

 

crunktastic

24 thoughts on “We Have Dreams: Some Thoughts on Intentional Dreaming on this MLK-Inauguration Day

  1. Right on! Thank you for this awesome post. I dream of a world where there is more peace, more empathy, and more compassion. I dream of a world that recognizes the value of other ways of knowing and other ways of being, one that takes seriously and respects peoples and perspectives that have historically been marginalized, devalued and oppressed. I dream of a world where we learn to value the lives of all living things over the bottom line of profit. I dream of a world where all humans can live healthy, fulfilling lives, and have access to sufficient food, community, work and education. I dream of a world where we greet our fellow humans instead of silently passing them in the street.

  2. I cannot stop dreaming of a world free of the intersections of state violence and interpersonal violence at which so many of us strive to live full, whole lives. I know this is possible. I dream that full sovereignty of indigenous peoples of the world can exist, knowing full well that means that most countries as we know it will cease to exist.

    • My Crunk Sister. This is an excellent piece. You tell an extremely important story and I intend to open my first class discussion with this post and the assignment to write a counterstory imagining the questions you and Hedgeman posed: What if “We Have A Dream” had been the speech the nation organized itself around? What if Myrlie Evers spoke at the March on Washington 50 years ago? What if?

      • What If the famous “I have a Dream Speech” had been” We have a Dream”?

        “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” If Dr. King had said “We have a Dream” I think it would have necessitated a shift in thinking of the civil rights movement as being led by stand-alone figures who inspired the masses to a more collective view. The tendency seems to be reducing entire social movements to the contributions of a few great men. For example just as Dr. King and Malcolm X seem to be the faces of the civil rights movement, in many conversations Nelson Mandela is the South African Anti-Apartheid movement. Anyone else’s sacrifices, philosophies, and ideas are cast in a supplementary, secondary, and almost subjugated light in many versions of historical retellings.
        In my own early experience with learning of the American civil rights movement in school, we learned about the nonviolent teachings and strategies of Dr. King. This is followed by the narrative of Rosa Parks, a hardworking black woman who was arrested for being too tired to give up her bus seat to white people. Her story inspired Dr. King and the NAACP to begin the Montgomery bus boycott. We also learned about Malcolm X who was presented as almost the opposite of Dr. King, espousing ideas of violence and black pride. There was no mention of the people who organized the march or even of the “Big 6”. Perhaps if Dr. King’s pronoun had been more inclusive it may have set the stage for future generations to know that Dr. King was not the only one with a dream and that dreaming does not require a charismatic leader to advance the cause.
        In addition to including the countless men who endeavored to resist the injustices decried by Dr. King in his speech, “We have a Dream” would also include the work and activism of the women of the civil rights movement. Women like Ms. Hedgeman, Septima Clark, and Rosa Parks who were involved in planning, in marching, and in being jailed alongside men in the movement. But it would have also included women like Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer who were instrumental in founding and leading civil rights organizations. Dr. King orating an all-encompassing dream could have led to a more inclusive telling of history that includes our foremothers without minimizing their contributions as in the example of Rosa Parks. “We have a Dream” could have put the names of women activists next to those of men in history books.
        In addition to including women had Dr. King said, “We have a dream” it could have interrupted the paradigm of needing a strong leader to accomplish change. At several points during this famous speech, Dr. King alludes to the work that others did and had to return to after the march. “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.” However, before the 2008 election of President Obama, I often heard people say that our generation is apathetic because we do not have leaders. Moreover, after his election people began to look to him to be this charismatic leader, our Dr. King. However, I believe that if Dr. King had acknowledged everyone’s work with “we have a dream”, a collective dream assembled and inspired by the masses perhaps we would not be faced with so many people expecting a single man, our president, to solve the problems of the nation.
        I do not doubt that Dr. King’s dream included all those who worked beside him; the inclusiveness of his work and plans was evident when he spoke of the day we would all be free. “This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, ‘My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’” Nevertheless, I also know that intentionally saying, “we have a dream” could have rewritten history.

  3. Ladies, I love this site and post. I do wish there was greater accountability and comfort with sharing authentic critique of our leaders, President Obama included. Along with our critique let there be a serious discovery of tangible solutions because our critiques though valid fall harder on deaf ears without additional options. We are in this beautiful time of greater openness it seems which leads to course-correction if we act in concert with one another and consistently. I do hope we can develop relationships and strategic partnerships, design a plan and stay the course.

  4. I love this blog so much!! It continues to uplift me when I feel so spiritually heavy. This post comes on the heels of listening to Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry’s awesome analysis of thinking of King as a Collective Effort, and honoring the leadership (influence) of women, both in the movement and their continued influence on our social policies and discourse.

    I like all the dreams listed so far, as they align to my heart. So, in addition, I dream of a world where skills like listening, being mindful, and engaging in respectful dialogue and critical examinination would be reinforced at all ages and stages of our human lives. I wish that we would collectively strive for peace than discord, give up our personal agendas, and recognize that our survival is interdependent. I wish as Hendrix once said, that we shift our love for power into the power of love.

    And Sheri Davis-Faulkner, I’d love to be one of your students! :)

  5. Thank you for your post. My department decided to use “dream” as a theme for this upcoming academic year–at first, I was skeptical that most of my dreams, would hardly match theirs. But I am thankful for your repositioning of “dream” and what it can mean for a black Christian-revolutionary feminist like myself.

    Peace and Love

  6. I dream that we all dream of forging a multiracial, intergenerational, working class solidarity where men and women stand shoulder to with both straight and gay revolutionaries. I dream that we all dream of crushing ruling class domination and we build something beautiful and just and life-sustaning in its place. I dream that my daughter will continue the work I will not finish and that she believes with the greatest conviction possible that WE SHALL WIN. It has been liberating to just write this. In solidarity,

  7. . Mrs. Hedgemann, reminds of how people are prisoners of the blindness of their time. The veil of sexism was and is. Those men knew of the historic tasks women had done, protecting the male child during captivity. Teaching the male child how to survive and have a sense of worth was a daunting, necessary job, poorly understood, and not remembered. Sadly, many black males continue to “dis-remember.” preening like roosters in the chicken-yard.

  8. Myrlie vs. Martin

    What if Myrlie Evers spoke at the March on Washington in the place of Martin Luther King, Jr.? I believe that there could be a positive outcome if people were more open to change at that time. But, judging from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, most people were obviously not ready to accept a new societal structure in which ALL people are equal.

    Myrlie Evers’ speech could have potentially empowered many more women to join the civil rights movement, as well as encourage those men and women who were already involved to renew their commitment to the movement. This renewed sense of commitment as well as an increase in participants, especially women, would have resulted in a greater collective effort among the black community because not only would black people be working towards racial equality, there could have been more attention directed towards gender equality as well. There would be a greater sense of community and communal living if everyone were to respect one another regardless of gender.

    Yet, because gender equality was not exactly a highlight of the civil rights movement, which is evident in the little recognition, if any, that the women involved in the movement received, Myrlie Evers did not have the chance to present a speech at the March on Washington. Maybe the men on the planning committee felt that the speech opportunity should be given to a man because they felt that the speech would be better received among a larger audience than if a woman spoke. Maybe they felt that men would be more suitable leaders than females. Whatever the reason may be for their choice, it shows that the black community still accepts white, western ideology especially ideas that women are inferior, and we have to do better.

    We have to stop allowing white, western ideology to crumble the black community from the inside out, so that the black community can finally unite and bring forth great leaders, male AND female.

  9. Though I can understand his message and his purpose, I do feel like the usage of the word “I”, takes away from a dream that was not only MLK’s. When using “I” it is typically assumed that you are the creator, the dreamer, the reason behind the context of which you are speaking. The many African Americans who died, were enslaved, risked their lives, all had this same dream. The only difference being that they were never given the opportunity to relay their thoughts or dreams to a mass of people like Dr King was able to do. Had he taken the time to say “We” instead of “I”, I believe that many who were gathered there that day would have left with a sense of urgency-a desire to push not only for Dr King, but for their very ancestors. Not to take away from the enormity or the impact that he provoked, however his speech made America focus on this MAN rather than what he stood for-WHO he stood for. It would have been a credit to those who came before him to make them all feel included. Him taking the time to include all of those who boycotted, missed work to march with him, protected their children and taught them that no matter what others may say about you or do to you, to keep your integrity and to keep your head up, in this speech would wave shown the world that it was not just him. Because I am sure that the dream that one day life would be better, was the only thing that kept the drive in all of the oppressed hearts. The fact that these people put their trust into God and His people, demonstrates an act of faith. What else would make people constantly put themselves in the line of danger, and constantly buck against the system that was presented to them? My mind can’t find the answer other than to say through dreams. Through God. Through work. Getting Dr. King to that very moment would not have happened had those before him not had a dream.

    • Proposed question by Professor Faulkner “What if Shirley Chisholm had one the presidential election in 72′? ”

      As I dwell on the issues of this present day, like the widened gap between the rich and poor, disparities in pay between women and men as well as gun violence in communities nationwide, I am encouraged to look to a moment in time when one African American woman made history that empowered the spirits of minorities and women alike. That woman I am referring to is Shirley Chisholm, though she did not win the Democratic nomination for President in 1972, the fact that she pursued the position not only inspired many people but also encouraged other individuals to pursue social change. Shirley Chisholm was a woman known as a political figure for the people and was very transparent with her thoughts and ideas throughout her political career. Resulting from my observations of her many accomplishments, I wondered what would have been different if she was actually elected President following Nixon’s term. Had she been elected as President, would there have been such deceitful and deceptive tactics in the Presidential cabinet during the Water Gate scandal or a feeling of rejection within the black community that caused many to abandon strategies for negotiation and take matters into their own hands? If Chisholm was elected as president, I believe that her political agenda would not have been skewed by public opinions or political clichés and she would have focused more on the core issues that the American people dealt with on a daily basis.

      Shirley Chisholm was born into a family of rich culture and unique customs as a result of having a mother from the Barbados and a father from British Guiana. Moreover, as a little child she had the chance to immerse herself in Barbados culture by living there with her grandmother as well as attaining an education there in the British school system. These types of experiences help leaders to better understand the customs and traditions that shape differing international communities and assist in developing strategic plans shaped by the specific core problems that countries face. Also, Chisholm probably had the chance to observe the dominate struggles in the Barbados and South America to complete a comparison of those issues that impacted those specific locations to the issues American people face. This in turn allows you to see the world as a collection of parts rather than just isolated entities.
      Shirley Chisholm accomplished many things as a state representative and congresswoman that still have a lasting impact on minorities as well as women. She proposed a bill to increase the funding and hours of daycare facilities, proposed measures to increase minimum wage for families, supported federal assistance for education and also was outspoken about civil and women rights issues. Chisholm was the type of individual that saw a need and acted diligently to fill that need by any means necessary. When you look at events like the Watergate Scandal and the War on Drugs that followed the candidacy of Nixon and later of Regan; I can conclude that these things probably would not have taken place if in fact Shirley Chisholm was elected president in 72’. The Watergate scandal involved an enormous amount of deception, non-transparency and illegal activities that contradict the democratic and ethical principles that America was founded upon. Chisholm mentions in her speech for presidency the very deceptive and manipulative strategies that shaped the Nixon administration and as a “the people’s president” she would hold great importance on standing on ethical principles of truth and justice. As for the War on Drugs in the 80’s, from her experience of working in urban communities she would not have seen this issue as merely a drug problem, but as being an issue of poverty, economic stability and funding for education. If Shirley Chisholm was elected president, some of the problems that dominate our debates today would not be that big of an issue.

  10. Response to Professor Davis-Faulkner’s proposed question: “What if Martin Luther King Jr. had said “We” have dream as opposed to “I” have a dream?”

    “ [I] have a dream that one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that al men are created equal” …. the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will sit down together at the table of brotherhood… [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 by the content of their character. [I] have a dream today.” … we … WE .. WE have a dream?!

    I believe that it is awarding that a shero such as Anne Arnold Hedgeman would critique man such as the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Often we get so wrapped in the fight of a leader that we fail to recognize or acknowledge the rhetoric and eloquence that is required. A leader is only as strong as his team, a team that includes him no excludes him. Dr. Martin Luther King started his historical speech including himself but amidst the many viewing lost his relation with his team, the discriminated and the marginalized. It is this disassociation that shaped history. If MLK Jr. had stated we as opposed to I, it would have offered that seal of confidence and affirmation that our race needed. That backing which would have driven the spirit of Myrlie Evers to speak at the March on Washington fifty years ago. The affirmation with which the Big Six would have allowed Negro women to speak, sheroes such as Rosa Parks to be vocal, aside of being “casually presented”. The support that would’ve determined the view of White America to see that Shirley Chisholm was ready to transcend from the corridors of the Capitol to a seat in the Oval Office with a voice more powerful than her own.

    At this time in history, it is my belief, no it is my knowledge, that women possessed the same drive as men but were silenced by the patriarchal and Christian ways to aid men and support in love. Martin Luther King Jr. and others could’ve changed these views with the change of a pronoun and a guiding hand that brought their women, and their people from behind them to aside them, in perfect alignment.

    Much like the sister who wrote this post, I question the fast comparison and linkage between Reverend King and President Barack Obama, and view it as one of differences and not similarities. There is a reason that Myrlie Evers-Williams, late widow of Medgar Evers, presented the invocation at President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address a week ago. It is the articulacy, rhetoric, allure and most importantly unselfishness with which President Obama evokes. From the beginning of his charges to American citizens, it was “Yes [we] can.” He exemplifies what it means to be an African American male. He highlights his relations as a husband, with the First Lady Mrs. Michelle Obama, always beside him, as a father and he identifies as a leader, whole only with his team. Fifty years later, we see that rhetoric changes a lot. We see Dr. King’s Dream sincerely newly manifested as OUR dream, President Obama’s and all American citizens. We arise to a new dream brought forth with Obama’s challenge in his second Inaugural Address. To quote President Obama and to proven the difference a pronouns makes.

    “[You and I], as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of [our] time – not only with the votes [we] cast, but with the voices [we] lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

    Let each of [us] now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is [our] lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let [us] answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”

    • The march on Washington would have greatly changed with the inclusion a women’s voice. During the civil right’s rights era women within churches across the south served as a backbone for the church. It was women who networked and ran grassroots campaigns most of which found their way to the church. So to deny a representative of women and similarly not valuing their multiple contributions to the movement sets the stage for a stereotype to focus men being the ones to bring about change on a specific issue. However some female historical figures who have changed history for the better would not be considered since they represent an anomaly and not the norm. The contributions of women are obscured by such a stereotype and their absence within a solution of an issue. The impact of knowing that both women and men fought for the cause creates an image of equality and not an image which gives an advantage to one gender over the other. It’s possible that equal participation between the sexes to gain civil rights would have altered acceptable gender roles.

  11. According to Doctor Faulkner’s piece,
    Anna Arnold Hedgeman was the only woman to serve on the 1963 March on Washington planning committee. She was the first Black woman to serve in a New York Mayoral Cabinet, under the leadership Mayor Robert Wagner (1954-1958). She is an exemplar of Jacqueline Dowd Hall’s concept of “the long civil rights movement,” since she was one of the organizers for the first March on Washington Movement alongside A. Philip Randolph in 1941 (1).
    Call me a weirdo, but when I read this, my mind automatically went to that box named OTHER, that one you can find on any application or document requiring personal information. You know that box that you just want to check as a joke sometimes or to prove a point. Hedgeman is the voice for that box, the OTHER box. She spoke for a group that no one was thinking about, a group that is just there for a select few or “decoration”. In this case she spoke for women, a group in which most men consider to be full of delicate but oh so tasty pieces of “arm candy”.
    Maybe I’m skipping out on talking about Myrlie Evers, and what if she spoke at the March on Washington, but I just do not feel that it is the meat of the conversation. The big “what if” should be What if we didn’t have a Hedgeman to stick up for OTHER. What if no one demanded more for or even thought about the box called OTHER.
    Hedgeman worked on staff with the Big Six, building something that was considered inconceivable to most, and that was a brighter future of equality for ALL. I imagine that if there was no Anna Hedgeman, there would have been no one to get so offended and feel so insulted that her work as a woman and the work of women everywhere apart of the movement would be considered so invaluable as to not have proper representation at the biggest event and turning point of the civil rights movement. There would be no one to demand RESPECT from our male counterparts through representation. There would be no one to think of “Her” in addition to “Him” and no one to think “We” instead of simply “I”.
    I can imagine a group of people believing the dream simply rest on the shoulders of men, and those men rested on the shoulders of God. I can imagine or dream that the Rosa Parks and Daisy Bates would be simple tokens of appreciation in the hearts of men and not giantesses themselves. I can dream that other would embody a greater percentage of people. I can imagine that a group of people would be stuck in a dream state and would have never embodied ACTION.
    Hats off to my President Obama, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X…to John Lewis, Whitney Young, and Roy Wilkins…to men everywhere that stand on the shoulders of God and state their dreams. However, my heart bends its knees to Anna Hedgeman and those other brave souls that thought of OTHER, that thought of black woman. Those Hedgemans that thought of “We” instead of “I”, that knew that a dream isn’t a dream unless it embodies a people as a whole. It is not a dream unless it absorbs into everyone’s heart. My heart bends its knees to those Hedgemans who knew that standing up for the OTHER in terms of Black Women, would lead to someone standing up for OTHER in terms of gays, would lead to someone standing up for OTHER in terms of underprivileged children, which would lead to someone standing up for OTHER in terms of impoverished neighborhoods…

    …check OTHER if you agree.

  12. Responding to Professor Davis-Faulkner’s proposed question: What if Myrlie Evers spoke at the March on Washington?

    Throughout the Civil Rights movement there were many campaigns to end racial inequality in this country. And as a result, the tolerance for racial inequality has diminished. However, while fighting for racial inequality fighting for gender inequality fell to the back-burner. This is evident in the decision of the Big Six to barely highlight women during the historic March on Washington. It seemed that including the topic of gender equality would only take away from the larger message of fighting against racial inequality. But what if women were included, what if Myrlie Evers spoke at the march?

    Although the “I Have a Dream” speech spoke to the anguish an longing that many people felt for racial inequality, it failed to address the other forms of inequality experienced in this country at that time. If Myrlie Evers was invited to speak at the March it is possible that she could have brought attention to the injustices experienced by both racial inequality and gender inequality. As a woman who was widowed after the murder of her husband, Mrs. Evers could have offered a point of view not experienced by Martin Luther King Jr. He could not describe the agony experience by the many women who supported their partners in their fight against civil rights, despite the dangers it presented to their families. And he could not describe how the fight often left women widowed and left to raise their children as single parents. Including Mrs. Evers as a speaker at the March would have shed light on the challenges and struggles experienced by women who were also committed to fighting against civil rights, and it would have also made evident the disregard shown towards addressing the issue of gender inequality.

    Although one can only speculate, I believe that if Mrs. Evers had spoken at the March she would have not only confirmed that the fight for civil rights was a collective struggle, but she would have also confirmed for the country that any inequality experienced by any category of people is unjust and should not be tolerated.

  13. In Response to Professor Davis-Faulkner’s proposed question:
    What if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had said “We” have a dream instead of “I” have a dream? I beleive that in the time Dr King Jr. gave his speech,the horrors of racism, segregation, KKK clansman, unjustified lynchings and pure hate crimes against the Black people,made it nearly impossible to dream of a better tomorrow. The Black woman during this time was merely a glowing spectrum within the societal sphere. Woman were finding their voices , standing up for civil rights, demanding to be heard and yet remaining the steadfast pillar of strength that our Black men and children so desperately needed. Martin Luther King Jr. was a symbol of faith and hope. American people of all race, creeds and colors clung to his ideas and his adaption of the promised land. They applauded him for being able to help us heal a nation that would other wise be scared for ever, if we did not come to realize we are all Gods children. In my opinion,the usage of the word I was par for the time and used in perfect context. It was through Dr King that the weak found strength,and it was his thoughts, dreams, and aspirations, that made people consider their own dreams. This educated composed man of God wanted a race of people ,who had endurered the worst, to regain faith in themselves. He told us of his dream and it allowed us to latch on and build with our own dreams instead of catching on and trying to decide who the We was intended to be. I believed Martin Luther King choose to say I have a dream because he wanted to have the oppourtunity to allow us to invision his dream and work to make his dream one with our own. He almost unwitingly forced us to push harder for equality , and humanity because we fought for not just a representation of a dream he felt we should have.We struggled to to do better and feel better because in spite of it all if Dr King Jr. had this dream, then each one of us can also dream for a better tomorrow. In essence,his dream combined with my dream and yours, was needed to genetrate that sense of unity the people needed.

  14. What if Martin Luther King Jr. had said “We” have dream instead of “I” have a dream?”
    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, to this day is one of the most renowned speeches ever spoken. His speech addressed issues of equality and the fight for justice. His words spread throughout the land and even became a mantra for the black community. His message was a message of the people. However, if this was the case, then why did he use “I” instead of “We” in his infamous speech? If this was a speech containing the ideas and views of an entire society then why does Dr. King receive all the credit?
    The dream was not just Dr. King’s, but also a nation’s. One must not just see Dr. King, when they think of civil rights or the hopes of an integrated society; they must also see the leaders who came before him to lead the way. One must think of the others who had the same dream and gave their lives in hopes of it becoming a reality. One must think about the people who weren’t in the forefront, but were still fighting for the cause and spreading the dream. One must think of the ones behind the scenes and who were never seen, but still helped to further the dream.
    Dr. King saying “We” and not “I” would have acknowledged all of those who believed in and fought for the dream. I believe that also by Dr. King using the word “We” that it would have influenced those who listened to his speech that day. I feel that this would have been the incentive for more people to make the dream actually happen. In addition, I believe that this would have also made the nation think and have a more of a direct connection to the dream and the advancement of our society. Although his speech made a huge impact and change in the world, I think that many focus more on Dr. King and his beliefs rather than the message of his speech and the history and struggles that led Dr. King to write his speech.

  15. What if Shirley Chisholm was president in 1972?

    Today’s society has experienced a lot of highs and lows from the first black president of the United States of America. However, currently two words that define America are unemployment and poverty. It seems that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing every day and it often makes one wonder could things be different if moments in American history were revised. For instance, what would have happened if a female minority such as Shirley Chisholm was elected during her 1972 Presidential Campaign? Her actions were historical and she truly was a political trailblazer; an inspiration who was a congresswoman, educator, and author known for being “unbought and unbossed.”

    This woman was before her time and used her personal experiences and ideologies to make a difference. Born to immigrant parents and having lived and managed underprivileged communities, she learned firsthand the inequalities that existed in American decided to fight it! That is why she ran for a seat in the House of Representatives and in the Oval Office, to challenge the “status quo.” If she had continued her journey past the three assassination attempts, negativity, and won the democratic nomination, and later the White House, instead of Nixon, I believe that integrity and faith would still be attached to the office and United States Politics.
    Equal Rights from minimum wage to equal pay would have been accomplished sooner. Escalation in the Vietnam War and our debt would have been minimized (women are less likely to use military warfare). Desegregation would have still been enforced. Foreign affairs would not have been so hefty and more attention would have been attributed to home and enhancing not only enhancing us socially, but economically; this would have included the war on drugs due to its close ties to her Brooklyn community.

    All of these steps would have been made by Chisholm during her term and would have resulted in better times, in terms of racial relations, economic status, and general welfare of “We, The People,” in the long haul.

  16. What if it was “We Have A Dream” or set in the present day? After carefully reading the speech, Dr. King does use the word “we” quite often, but what if Dr. King would have explained exactly who “we” included? A more inclusive language would have created a litany that highlighted the work of the women who were all too often left behind the scenes. We would have included Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Fay Bellamy Powell and Septima Clark. We would have included those individuals like Bayard Rustin, who found himself ostracized because his skin had been kissed like the sun and because his sexual orientation was “taboo”. We would have included Mamie Till Bradley, the mother of Emmett Till, who let the entire world see what happened to her baby boy for being black in Mississippi. But, what if this speech was given this year? Our “we’s” have changed so much over the last 50 years. We for single mothers losing mates and children to the prison industrial complex. We for parents in Chicago losing children to senseless violence on our streets. We for families in Blacksburg, VA and Newtown, CT and Aurora, CO and Sanford, FL burying their loved ones because of lack of gun laws. We for the overworked and underpaid citizens fighting for health insurance. We for feeble minded individuals being duped by religious leaders. We for men and women fighting for their rite to proclaim their love through marriage. It is evident that we are yet still dreaming, but we must now turn to becoming the dream fulfilled. We must become the answer to the prayers of our ancestors. For WE have come over a way that with tears has been watered and WE have come treading a path through the blood of the slaughtered; out from the gloomy past till now WE stand at last; where the white gleam of OUR bright star is cast. So Dr. King allow me the privilege to say that WE have a dream.

  17. If Martin Luther King Jr’s speech had been entitled “We Have a Dream” instead of “I Have a Dream” the speech would’ve created a totally different effect than it did. In 1963, when the speech was given in front of Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 200,000, African-Americans had been taught to believe that they were of a lesser value than their predominate white counterparts. Although freed from physical slavery by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slavery of the mind was still alive and well when the speech was delivered. As most people who have ever observed an educational setting before know, life’s most valuable lessons are taught by example. Just as the elementary school math teacher teaches the class how to add and subtract by solving example problems. This is the exact same rhetorical strategy that Dr. King uses. In his speech, he employs his own dreams to serve as the shining example as what others could aim for and even surpass. In a part of his speech, Dr. King states that, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This use of the pronoun “I” again prompts the notion that Dr. King is using his displaying his own dreams to be used as a model of how big others can dream. Dr. King references his own children and what he wants to someday see them achieve, which could also prompt the audience to think of their own children and what they someday wish for them to accomplish. Had Dr. King used the term “we” instead of “I” given the time period, it would not have been as powerful. People would have questioned who he was referring to and automatically excluded themselves from the “we” because they felt they weren’t important enough in stature. But Dr. King’s use of “I” clears that all up because it gave everyone a fair playing field. If Dr. King had a dream for what he wanted his country to look like and his children’s lives to be in the future, then audience members could also begin to imagine and dream the same for themselves as well as their offspring.

  18. The “I Have a Dream Speech” is the keystone message that resonates on from the legendary March on Washington. It ignited a spirit of hope and anticipation to the arduous and violent development within the struggle for civil rights.

    I think that the use of “we” in this speech would have been problematic at the time. To the hardened heart, this might have sounded like a threat. The “we” that Reverend King referred to would have felt like the large group of majority Black individuals who had descended upon the Mall. It might have sounded like a “we” versus “them” battle cry. Instead of seeing the universality of the struggle to be given the proper due of full legal and social rights, it might have been seen as a more divisive battle.

    Furthermore, the term “we” tends to include both the speaker and the listener. But, this particular speech was directed as supporters and attackers. It was a more of an invitation to see the possibilities of a new societal structure that one man had dared to believe was possible.
    I think in the context of the moment, “I” was the right fit. Particularly, since this speech was made by a Black man in the United States in 1964. Black men, specifically, had been campaigning for recognition as individuals, moreover, as fully grown men. The idea of one Black man asserting the fullness of his humanity by even daring to dream in a country that, by law, limited the wholeness of his experience is revolutionary. His speech was a condemnation of the current situation as it stood, but also an encouragement towards a more progressive state of being and a call to action for all to help in its construction.

  19. March of 1963, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington followed by his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. During a time of racial tension and turmoil Dr. King delivered a powerful speech calling for equality and justice for all. If Dr. Martin Luther King would have said “we” instead of “I” in his “I Have a Dream” speech, I believe that the speech wouldn’t have been as powerful and dynamic. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” was appropriately written for that time period, during the Civil Rights Movement, and the fact that more than half of Dr. King’s speech entailed “we” demonstrated his acknowledgment of the stowed away dreams of the Negro people. However, during that time in history, a good amount of the black community was living in fear and therefore did not have a voice of their own. Indeed blacks were engaging in riots, as well as whites, however Dr. King led by example because he was one of the few of his rank who spoke with intelligence and authority. For Dr. Martin Luther King to share his specific dream with the people, showed that he was willing to take a step further and lead by example. I believe that by his deliverance of this speech even though towards the end he used “I,” it served its purpose and motivated the black community to stand up and speak up. It also challenged whites to stand up and do what was right for the people. However, to play devil’s advocate, if Dr. Martin Luther King would have remained consistent with “we” it probably would’ve served the people better and maybe everyone could’ve had the same vision of peace, love, and equality. Maybe today there wouldn’t be as much black on black violence if Dr. Martin Luther King wasn’t the only one who had that dream of unity and togetherness.

    Quaneesha Bey

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