Volume XI, Issue 7 ~ February 13-19, 2003

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Measuring King’s Dreams in Chesapeake Miles

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s August 28 “I Have a Dream Speech.” That masterpiece of American oratory gives us milestones by which to measure the distance we’ve come in those four decades.

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, King said.

In our Bay Weekly interview, you’ll be able to measure that span in Chesapeake miles as you read the words of Wilson Parran, who is perhaps most widely known for his election in November to the Calvert County Board of Commissioners.

Parran’s face stands out, for he is the only African American member of a county governing board in Calvert and Anne Arundel counties — neither of which sends a black member to this General Assembly. Parran also is a high-ranking Maryland Department of Natural Resources official in Annapolis, a businessman and a Democratic Party stalwart. From his experience we learn not just about his life but about ours. For he is the son of sharecroppers, and about the time King was dreaming, it took activist intervention to get the school bus to stop on his road.

Parran was a book-loving youngster who blazed trails in the military and the business of technology. Yet he’s never been too busy to give back to his community in service, education, economic development, arts and recreation, health care and substance-abuse prevention. He told us, too, how Black History Month came about — from the work of Carter Woodson, a Howard University faculty member who was born into slavery and who, in 1926, engineered Negro History Week to recognize the achievements of black Americans.

Woodson chose this week in February because it marked the birthdays of two Americans whose courage dramatically improved the lives of blacks: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Parran, who heard King in his lifetime, helped live some of the slain freedom fighter’s dreams. Other of King’s dreams have not come true.

We sometimes forget that as well as racial equality, King championed social justice and peaceful opposition to war. He made his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and he returned to these themes again and again.

In 1968, the killing tolls of Vietnam still had far to rise; today we’re preparing for another war with consequences that can be even more devastating.

“The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America,” King said in “Chaos or Community?” in 1967.

Today at home, poverty — the poverty line is defined as income below $18,000 for a family of four — engulfs some 12 percent of Americans, rising far higher for blacks (22.7 percent) and Hispanics (21.4 percent).

“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization,” said King in that same speech.

At Bay Weekly, we spend a fair amount of editorial space talking about the environment and Chesapeake Bay. Justice and equality are also part of sustainable society about which we dream and for which we work. As we commemorate Black History Month, we’re hearing the reverberation over 40 years of all King’s dreams.



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Last updated February 13, 2003 @ 3:13am