I have a dream

It was nearly fifty years ago when the Reverend Martin Luther King gave the famous and powerful “I have a dream” speech. In so many ways, this is a very different world we live in today and yet we still have so much further to go.
1963 was a year of violence and tears, dreams and hope. It was a year when civil rights protesters met with brutality from police and soldiers acting on orders of their superiors. Martin Luther King, jailed in Birmingham, Ala. wrote the significant “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and argued that there is a moral duty to disobey unjust laws. Later that same year he told a crowd of a quarter million blacks and whites the enduring words, “I have a dream”.
In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
Dr King preached civil disobedience when necessary, but he also preached non-violence. Even if WE are not the instigators and WE do not personally strip the rights of our fellow human beings away, if we sit still and voiceless as we allow this to happen, then we are just as guilty. He saw a world where all men and women would be equal and respectful of one another.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”
There are many who have suffered, in the past and even today. Non-whites, women, and homosexuals have to fight every day for equal rights. There are many ways where suffering has to be endured, unequal pay, lost job opportunities, forbidden loves, cold shoulders, exclusion, suspicion, and more.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Advancements and victories occurred through the years; there has always been room for more. In the 21st-century the American people have seen remarkable changes. Affirmative action has become an effective tool to ensure diverse pools of talent. Equal pay for equal work is a promise with action available when it isn’t followed. America saw the election (and re-election) of its first Black president. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed allowing gays in the military to serve openly and proudly. More and more states are passing legal same-sex marriages. There will always be more to do, but our country is honoring human rights for all more and more everyday.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Without a Voice

After catching a bad upper respiratory infection (aka the common cold) I developed a severe case of laryngitis. This is not the scratchy throat and sound like a frog kind of affliction, this is total loss of voice – I cannot even grunt! I’ve been like this since last Sunday and while my husband is pretty much overjoyed, my doctor says I need to rest my larynx. Believe it or not even whispering puts a strain on the voicebox I have been unable to speak for the better part of a week and it’s been very frustrating.

An almost full week of silence got me thinking of women who are denied the opportunity to voice themselves. Some of the female characters I’ve included in my books have been denied the right to speak for themselves for one reason or another. In Bartlett’s Rule Paige was denied the right to say “No” when an ex-boyfriend viciously attacked her; In A Chaunce of Riches Samantha was blackmailed into silence about who she really loved; and in Hyphema Seudah was raised a Muslim Pakistani woman in a place where some women are still forced to hide behind veils and are not allowed to talk for fear of offending the men.

Although the things I’ve been able to do have been seriously curtailed without having a voice, I’ve been lucky to have friends and family who have been patient and willing to interpret hand signals, read hastily scribbled notes and crane to listen to a few whispered words. My silence has lasted a week and I have reasonable expectation of once again being able to talk for myself, hopefully soon. But what of those women who live lifetimes without the ability to say what is on their minds, to voice their feelings, to be heard and be allowed to matter.

This past week has given me a mere glimpse into their frustration. It is difficult to tell folks your needs when you can’t speak. In the United States the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed, recognizing women’s right to vote on August 26, 1920. There has been progress worldwide over the right of women to have voices about family, religion, politics and health. But there are still lands and social situations where women are not afforded the right to have a say. This is a subject that should concerns us all; when human rights are denied to any person(s) it is an affront to us all.

Read up on women’s issues at these sites:

http://www.now.org/ National Organization for Women (NOW)

http://www.un.org/womenwatch/ Womenwatch: A United Nations project

http://www.wedo.org/ Women’s Environment and Development Organization

http://www.hrw.org/home Human Rights Watch