More than 100 people filled Center in the Park’s auditorium in Germantown on Friday for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration, which focused on his life through the book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community.”
“The purpose of this event is to get them away from what I call the ‘media-wash’ of ‘I Have A Dream,'” said Michael O’Bryan, community outreach liaison for Freedom Theatre. “You don’t get shot for having a dream because lots of people have dreams and more daring dreams.”
Then and now
During the intergenerational event, the group looked at common themes in King’s most recognizable works and examined what those words mean today.
Starting with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is considered “The African-American National Anthem,” the group discussed their lives with regard to neighborhood, culture, jobs and education.
Respecting one another, community unity and having an actual stake in the neighborhood through property ownership were among the biggest changes noted during the hour-long forum.
Josiah Wise, 24, said he was intrigued by the idea that ownership creates wealth, but recognized that many young adults may not aspire to homeownership because the process seems foreign.
He said that prior to the discussion, he had some knowledge of King’s work, but that it primarily came through the media, not his own studies.
“It makes me want to do a little more research on the latter part of Dr. King’s career or life just because I don’t feel that I know enough,” said Wise. “I know he became more radical in the latter part of his career.”
Yvonne Reid, who learned the ideas of Dr. King as a teenager, said the discussion proved how relevant his words are today.
She added that budget cuts from programs including business education have hindered the ability of young people to learn about setting goals, saving money and owning property.
“I look back on it in hindsight and I see what he was talking about in terms of poverty among African Americans or low-income people,” said Reid. “There is still poverty because we as people have not been taught how to gain access to rise above the poverty.”