King in Stone and Reality

08/26/2011 06:59 pm ET | Updated Oct 26, 2011
  • Hermene Hartman President, Hartman Publishing Group, Inc.; President, N'DIGO Foundation

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before the American public in Washington D.C on the mall where his statue is erected on August 28, 1963, and told America that he had a dream. His speech was one of the greatest ever made in the 20th century.The substance of the speech is far beyond the 'I Have a Dream" resound. Often overlooked in this speech, is the check marked "insufficient funds."

On that hot summer day, some 48 years ago he said,

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promissory note that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check, which has come back, marked "insufficient funds.

King's speech struck a cord because he hit the root, soul and guts of American democracy. What is it he asked? He challenged that we had not lived up to it. His sermon was romantic, filled with symbolism and elegance. He was passionate as he made the then president of the United States stand by the window to listen and the crowd stood in silence and the amen's came forth. It was a still moment. He was honest and forthright in his presentation. He challenged the system to be all that it had written in its legal documents, to define the spirit of this great country. He was impactful beyond his words for that day.

His dream was rooted in a nightmare where there were still second-class citizens -- The Negro. He spoke to the discontent, the insult, the racism, and the contradiction. His speech had universal appeal as it addressed oppressed people everywhere.

King was profound in a profane world. His weapon was his voice. He was amazingly impactful and proved that one man can make a difference. As we see King today, as we mount a statue on the Washington mall, the backdrop is politicians gone mad. We see the instant crazed media. We see a world King never knew. We see our leaders stumbling and fumbling with the basic principles. Have we progressed? Have we moved forward? Have we regressed?

As we ceremoniously celebrate the stone statue, I hope we recall the King reality. As we unveil the statue, I hope we remember he was assassinated. As we unveil the statue, I hope we remember him entirely. As we unveil his statue I hope we see our current reality. The check is still marked "insufficient funds," not just for the Negro American but for all Americans.

The King voice is missed.