A Day, and a Year, of Reflection
2013 will be a year of reflection on a number of significant events in our nation’s history.
Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King was arrested and wrote his seminal work “Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
Fifty years ago, Eugene “Bull” Connor used fire hoses and police dogs on black demonstrators prompting people to have a change of heart about civil rights because of the brutality that was seen on TV.
Fifty years ago, Medgar Evers, whose wife will give the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama today, was murdered just outside his home.
Fifty years ago, 250,000 people were inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Fifty years ago, four young girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins) were killed when a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
This year not only marks the 50 year anniversary of all of those events, but the 150th anniversary of one of the most significant events in this country's history. On Jan. 1, 1863 , another soon-to-be-assassinated president signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery. Each year, in thousands of African-American churches across the nation, we still celebrate “Watch Meeting Night” as a way to commemorate that day.
On that day in 1863, one old lady said, upon hearing the news, said “Mr. Lincoln signed the papers, but it was God that set us free.” Given the state of our nation and world 150 years later, the question becomes, free to do what?
Despite the incredible strides African-Americans have made, we continue to suffer disproportionately from hunger, poverty, unemployment, and income and education disparities. When compared with the U.S. population as a whole, we are more likely to be poor and more likely to go hungry. According to U.S. Census bureau figures, more than one in four African-Americans lived in poverty in 2010. And one in four African-American households struggled to put food on the table.
Today, we celebrate not only the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but the second inauguration of the President Barack Obama. It is a time to rejoice, but also a time to pray for the president, and also ask him to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger. Perhaps, in another 50 years, when we look back on 2013 we'll remember it as the year that marked the beginning of the end of hunger.
Bishop Don DiXon Williams is racial/ethnic outreach associate at Bread for the World and sits on the board of bishops of the United Church of Jesus Christ, Baltimore, Md.
Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. leaning on a lectern (1964). From the United States Library of Congress's prints and photographs division, through Wikimedia Commons.
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