Have you seen the television commercial that features Halle Berry, the award winning African-American actress, being escorted through a fancy restaurant to the back to the “colored section”? Two other women accompany Berry, and as they walk through the “white” section, Berry waves and smiles to a couple of people. Once Berry and her companions are seated, they seem perfectly content, and the announcer asks if the viewer can imagine what life would be like if Martin Luther King Jr. had never dared to dream. He then asks viewers to “help keep the dream alive.”
It can be an unsettling scenario and an unpleasant thought.
Martin Luther King’s dream of a colorblind society has not yet completely come true, although, in many ways the color barriers are gone.
The dream and the dreamer are well known and respected, even though the dreamer died years ago.
The dream remains alive.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of that day in Washington, D.C., when, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King publicly shared his dream with the nation. The occasion was the March on Washington, which at the time, was the largest protest assembly in the history of the United States, with more than a quarter million people in attendance.
The year was 1963, and the dream speech and other events have made that year one that many people will remember.
For one, mass civil rights demonstrations took place around the country and in some communities, the protestors were successful in getting some businesses, like hotels and restaurants, desegregate.
It is also the year that four young girls were killed in a church bombing attack in Birmingham, Ala. That is a case that was settled just a few months ago, with the conviction of the last of the accused bombers.
Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader and field secretary for the NAACP, was killed in June 1963, gunned down at the threshold of his home in Jackson, Miss.
Later that year, an assassin’s bullet would also claim the life of another civil rights champion, the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, in his inaugural address, promised to make civil rights legislation a priority during his administration, which he did.
Other things happened in 1963 as well. Sidney Portier starred in a movie called Lilies of the Field, for which he won an Oscar the following year. He became the first African-American male to win that award.
By the way, 1963 is also the birth year of Michael Jordan, who has made professional sports history.
A lot can happen in 40 years. A lot has happened in 40 years.
Has the dream of Dr. King been achieved?
Although we may not be able to say the dream has become reality in every way, we can acknowledge the dream and the anniversary.
If not for the courage of the dreamer and others who bought into it, you might very well be reading this column in the “colored news” section of the newspaper.
Felicia LeDuff Harry is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily of this newspaper.