A Dream with Room to Grow
With the recent anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech has created an influx of articles and posts about justice. But perhaps one of the most important things to think about at this time is not how far we have come, but yet how far we still have to go to accomplish this dream.
A dream not realized: Mayors say economic, educational justice still not reached 50 years after civil rights movement
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Issues of crime, poverty and educational underachievement are national problems plaguing cities that require creative and multi-level responses, mayors from around the nation said today.
There was a consensus among the leaders that the modern movement involves solving the longstanding ills with complex remedies.
“That really is the march that needs to take place 50 years later,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
At the conclusion of the conference, the mayors presented their plan of action to work against racism and discrimination.
Several of the municipal leaders stressed that the modern challenges of civil and human rights relate to economics and education.
Nutter named poverty and youth violence among the most pressing challenges.
“Education should be part of the national defense of the United States of America,” Nutter said. “We have attacked the issue of terrorism at an unprecedented level. I applaud that and I do feel secure. That same level of commitment and focus is on the education of our young people.”
The event was divided into two forums on reaching economic justice and building tolerance.
Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldon said issues of tolerance today are secondary to solving educational underachievement, crime and poverty, particularly in some minority communities.
In some cases, basic survival supersedes social confines, Cabaldon said.
“Today, it may not even be the most important thing,” he said. “Today we need to give those kids the luxury of having to deal with intolerance.”
If students aren’t given tools for success, then intolerance won’t matter he said, because they’ll remain outside the mainstream of society, unable to even demand the equality they deserve.
The Conference of Mayors is collaborating with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and U.S. State Department to establish the U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism and Discrimination.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu underscored the point of other mayors, noting the location of the forum as the place where four children died in 1963.
In New Orleans 50 years later, he listed three children killed in recent days aged one to 11. Those children were innocent victims of urban street violence, Landrieu said.
“There’s too much of that going on in America,” he said. “We don’t always speak of our moral responsibility at home, which is the essential freedom to walk the streets and get home.”
Landrieu said violent deaths of youth today are often emblematic of the complex social challenges of economics, education and premature parenthood.
While stronger support networks and maintaining existing programs to address social ills are essential, Landrieu called personal responsibility inescapable.
Still, the mayors said, all citizens must work to address the problems, whether they are directly responsible or not. Failure to do so, also negatively affects the entire community, the mayors said.
The group also discussed creative working solutions in their cities. Nutter outlined a job fair for previously incarcerated applicants in his city that drew 2,500 people.
Employers were given city tax incentives to hire the workers with prior criminal records.
“Folks want to work. They want to take care of themselves, and recognize the dignity in work,” Nutter said. “That is a population that needs to be addressed. Folks walking around wondering what to do with themselves, inevitably they’re going to get in trouble.”
Madison, Wis. Mayor Paul Soglin listed education, job training, childcare, healthcare and access to decent housing as the five essential areas that require attention.
Soglin said the protests of the 1960s were more than calls for access to lunch counters and basic services, but rather a greater call for all citizens to have tools to access the prosperity of America.
“That’s been the failure of the past 50 years,” he said. “We have not developed the access to the systems that would create true economic justice.”
Soglin also challenged the corporate community to move beyond symbolism and examine itself when it comes to true economic equality.
“It’s not good enough to say I’m a person of good will. We have to learn there’s a higher standard,” said. “When we walk through the halls of your company and we’re looking into the offices, do we see a workforce that is reflective of the larger community? That’s the only way we’re going to reach this next level.”
The panel discussions were led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the group’s vice president.
In addition, Charleston, S.C.’s longtime mayor, Joe Riley, discussed the role that mayors can play in reaching equality. Riley is one of the county’s longest-serving mayors, first taking office in 1975.
Read article from original source from the AL.com website here.
What do you think we still have to do for the civil rights movement?