I captured this photo on the Washington Mall during the 1983 March on Washington commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the historic 1963 march at which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famed “I Have a Dream” speech.
One of the good things about coming out of the closet is that I have a lot of closet space in which to store memories like this. I ran across the photo while looking for several items for Ft. Lauderdale’s Stonewall Museum at the request of my longtime friend, activist and author Brian McNaught.
Looking at the photo now, I wonder where this little girl is today. She would be in her thirties and my hope is that she is in some kind of leadership position—professionally, as a volunteer, or as a parent. I even fancy she might be part of the Obama administration, a dream come true for the 1963 marchers and all those marchers who followed in commemorations since.
It makes me nostalgic for the days when “religion in the public square”—marching, speaking, writing, and activism for civil rights and justice and peace from a faith perspective—was welcomed even by non-religious progressives. Nowadays every time I write such a piece for The Huffington Post, I am stunned by the angry responses from people wary of ANY religion in the public square. After decades of reactionary Christians’ wars on women, LGBT people, peace activists, environmentalists, gun control advocates, atheists, and those of other faiths, even I wish Christians would just shut-up.
But Christians helped transform my youthful conservative views into a mature and open liberal understanding of issues and people. The weekend that Rev. King was assassinated, the youth minister of the Free Evangelical church I attended in high school read King’s sermon, “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” during Sunday evening worship. On the first Sunday I visited the Presbyterian church I soon joined while in college, the seminary intern’s sermon recounted the past decade of the Civil Rights Movement. The senior pastor of the church had earlier preached against an initiative that would have repealed a California fair housing act that eliminated racial barriers to purchasing homes in white neighborhoods. Morning worship was followed every Sunday by a forum on issues of peace and justice, from school bussing and the Vietnam War to the founding of MCC.
In his sermon, “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” Dr. King spoke of length of days for growth, breadth of human concern and community, and finally, “height or that upward reach toward something distinctly greater than humanity.” Of those who miss that upward reach, King preached, “They seek to live without a sky.”
“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Proverbs 29:18 reads in the King James Version. Subsequent translations refer to prophecy rather than vision. I am grateful Rev. King’s prophetic vision gave us the upward reach to “keep the dream alive.”
Thank you to the many who responded to my questions in last week’s post, “Do You Read My Blog?” You made my day! For those who haven’t yet responded, I welcome additional comments.
Photo and words copyright © 2013 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Suggested uses: personal reflection, contemporary readings in worship, conversation starters in classes. This ministry is entirely funded by your donations. Please click here to make a tax-deductible contribution. Thank you!