The Dream and The Dreamer

Covid-19 has disrupted a community and family tradition that I have been participating in since the first one. The MLK Marade was a regular gathering of freedom fighters, of all generations, that looked back, raised our voices in the now, and marched forward to tomorrows that we believed would be better.

All is virtual this year. Generations still gathering. Voices still being raised. Better tomorrows being hoped for.

This is a different time yet it is an unchanged time. Dr. King said the words in 1963 at the March on Washington, juxtaposing the realities of the day with the the Emancipation Proclamation: “100 years later and the Negro is still not free.”

He concluded, through evaluation and lived experiences, that while the chains of the plantation had been severed, the circumstances that Blacks were living under were still oppressive, and very much upholding the very white supremacy that had enslaved.

Today, 57 years from the dream being declared, “the Negro is still not free.”

Our teaching of The Dream and The Dreamer must begin there: In the uncomfortable space that affirms that this country continues to bounce the check of equality and justice issued to citizens of color. 

It must begin with Trayvon Martin. It must speak the name of Tamir Rice. You must say their names: Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. The teaching and telling of The Dream and The Dreamer must deal with why George Floyd had a knee on his neck and why Elijah McClain did not have safe passage home.

Hear The Dreamer say, “the Negro is still not free.”

With a majority of our teachers not reflecting the students that they serve, it is imperative that the teaching and telling of history be true to the lived realities of students, their families, and ancestors. Educators must speak the truth about the white moderates who operated then and still do today, at all deliberate speed; at a pace comfortable for dominant culture but not congruent with the JUSTICE NOW cries of people who are tired of no charges being filed.

Hear The Dreamer say, “the Negro is still not free.”

Educators must not back away from the unkept promises, the greatness expressed on paper but the glaring inequities in practice. Educators cannot be silent that we have not arrived at a place where children are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Ask the many Black children overrepresented in discipline data and school to prison pipeline realities. Educators must tell the truth. The Dream has not been realized, it remains elusive, obstructed by people who don’t want the prosperity and power of this country to be inclusive.

Hear The Dreamer say, “the Negro is still not free.”

Educators must teach that the nightmares that have prompted our dreams, our lamenting for equality, equity, and justice, are still real. The behaviors of others that move parents like me to have ‘the talk’ with our children before they go here or there, very much still our reality. Teach of violent mobs, who burned crosses, bombed churches, and brutalized then and still today wave confederate flags, erect gallows on the grounds of our nation’s Capitol, desecrate the halls that represent our democratic republic, with exclusive chants of USA. Teach that they were encouraged by an individual who would concoct lie after lie to maintain illegitimate position and power.

Hear The Dreamer say, “the Negro is still not free.”

Educators must teach that The Dreamer was assassinated, taken from his family, stolen from the struggle, because by design, The Dream was never to become a reality and The Dreamer was a threat.

It is not a moment for comfortable rhetoric, it is a time to be real. It is a time to allow truth to transform and heal us so that tomorrow the dream can be fulfilled rather than deferred and ultimately denied, over and over again, for another generation. 

Hear The Dreamer say, “the Negro is still not free.”

Pastor Vernon Jones Jr.
Pastor Vernon Jones Jr.
Vernon Jones Jr. (PJones) and his wife Jaymie are the proud parents of five awesome kids. Three are current students in Denver Public Schools and two are college students at Texas Christian University. Vernon is a former school leader and educator within Denver Public Schools at Manual High School and Executive Director at Omar D. Blair Charter School. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ) serving and supporting nearly 5,000 students in DPS. He remains committed to his community work with FaithBridge and Kinship. Vernon is also proud to serve on the board of Mentor Colorado.

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