Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,
I was in elementary school when Nobel Laureate, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The news crossed the world to South Africa, from where the United States seemed a distant dream. It was a big deal though, because we knew Dr. King’s death was a blow for the Black civil rights movement in the United States. In South Africa we were living in the time of Apartheid, when rights of Black people, the vast majority of our population, had been removed. Every South African knew that Apartheid would fall, it was just a matter of when, and how much violence this would entail. Dr. King was a luminary, whose voice traveled across the ocean to us, and gave hope for a world of equality. The vision of Dr. King was profound, that without violence but with clear expectations and demands, equality for Black people in the United States could be achieved. Decades later in 1994, another Nobel Laureate, Mr. Nelson Mandela led South Africa out of Apartheid without bloodshed, but with forgiveness and a positive view forward. Certainly, Dr. King helped show that extraordinary way.
Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech in 1963, remains one of the most brilliant of all time, in its content and in its delivery. The most famous passage departed from his prepared text, with words beautiful and hopeful.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
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.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
So much has been achieved since Dr. King dreamed and led the charge for equality, and so much has not. Fifty-eight years after Dr. King called out anti-Black police brutality in his speech, we are still struggling with the same issue. And while it is easy to point the finger of blame at perpetrators of blatant acts of white violence, such as the recent attack on the Capitol, it is important to remember that we each have a role bringing this dream to pass, as highlighted in Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail (1963):
“Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride towards freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
This Monday we respectfully honor the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his words make me weep, for a dream not yet fully a reality, and for a hope that is like light. We so need hope and light today in 2021, in the United States of America. Let us be part of sharing hope, of being respectful and kind, of valuing each individual for their worth, of re-committing to anti-racist policies in our College of Science at Northeastern University. Let us work together to make the dream real.
Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science