The fight and the dream are unfinished

Published 9:00 am Monday, April 9, 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the three primary inspirations in my formative years (the other two were Nelson Mandela and my parents).

King was all about a human community of inclusion. That was because he believed we are all exceptional in some way; that no matter how mundane or petty things seem, we all represent something unique in our existence every day.

I thought it appropriate to celebrate the human condition on the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. Yes, the world certainly has changed – for better and for worse – since the fateful day King stepped out onto that Memphis hotel balcony for the last time, and moments later sacrificed his life for the betterment of America and its humanity.

In 2018 we have Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo Movement, the Florida high school kids and their campaign against gun violence, and we have something else.


That’s because I think we’re at a crossroads in America. An intersection where our choices are hope and healing or hurt and hate.

I do truly believe that King’s mission in his too brief time here on earth was to expand inclusion within the American community, no matter how hard there were forces around who were trying very hard to shrink it. We will never know for sure, of course, but I have little doubt that King would have rejected non-inclusion as, well, dangerous.

King’s dream of equality and racial justice for all should be a reality in 2018, but it’s not. We’re still a far from fulfilling the promises made by the Constitution: one that guarantees the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Sadly, in some ways we have regressed to the hate and deep-seated racism King faced marching in Montgomery, Chicago, and Memphis. Some in America still crusade for an existence that is separate and unequal, refusing to show love to their neighbors while others openly hate. 

The fight remains unfinished.

It’s sometimes lost on people how hard King worked to ensure that every person has the right to a decent job and income and access to sufficient housing, education and food.

A half-century later, history books seem to just focus on King’s strident dedication to civil rights and uplifting black people. But King wanted that for all people who experienced injustice, oppression and poverty. Yes, too often, the poor and working-class remain second-class citizens, 50 years after King’s death.

The fight remains unfinished.

If King could see America now, he’d still bear witness to the harsh realities of a divided nation and the efforts of those who want to quash democracy and negate the protections of some of our nation’s most successful civil rights legislation: the right to vote. We see shady redistricting, limited early voting, and the elimination of polling sites now commonplace in America.

I’m sad to say we haven’t heeded King’s lessons, thus honoring his legacy as we should.

Yes, the fight remains unfinished.

We may well be a society still broken, but I’m encouraged by those who won’t succumb and quit. King lives in us because his message lives with us.

Somewhere out there, there’s still someone with King’s ideals, his passion, tolerance, persistence and love leading to a place where the dream is finally fulfilled.

Let me leave you with this: with hope and healing, we’ll win the fight; we shall overcome.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.