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Realizing the Dream: A Call to Conscience
in Honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Posted on Riverside Blog January 11, 2006

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
at The Riverside Church

Sunday, January 15, 2006

From the same pulpit that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Realizing the Dream — a coalition of civil rights and social justice organizations — was joined by Martin Luther King, III, Ambassador Andrew Young, Susan Sarandon, Jeffrey Wright, Cissy Houston and others to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, on what would have been his 77th birthday.

Led by Realizing the Dream co-chairs, Ambassador Young and attorney William Wachtel, the tribute event featured musical performances, prayer and guest speakers, which also included: Marian Wright Edelman; Dr. Susannah Heschel, whose father Rabbi Heschel worked closely with Dr.King; and senior minister of the Church, The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr.

Ms. Houston sang Precious Lord, Take My Hand and actors Susan Sarandon and Jeffrey Wright read select works of Dr. King. The event opened with audio excerpts from Dr. King’s historic “Beyond Vietnam” speech at The Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. In addition, at the event, Realizing the Dream also announced the formation of the 1st annual Auburn Street Round Table, a day-long summit dedicated to formulating an action plan to combat poverty in America.

Why Here?

In "Beyond Vietnam," Dr. King spoke out forcefully against America’s “police actions” in Northern Vietnam, linking the war to its fundamental economic inequities. In so doing, Dr. King not only joined the voices of many dissenting Americans, he controversially and boldly expanded the parameters of his core mission: from serving as the nation’s conscience on racial injustice, He also laid the groundwork for a comprehensive campaign against dehumanizing foreign policy and structural economic inequality. It is sobering to think what he might have achieved, but even without him we must take inspiration from his leadership in addressing the problems we face in 2006.

Why now?

Economic inequality has grown far more pronounced since Dr. Martin Luther King’s lifetime. In 1960, the gap in wealth between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent of the population was thirty-fold. Four decades later, it is more than seventy-five fold.

At the start of 2006, we live in an America characterized by deregulation, gutting of the public sector, and exuberant faith in the markets. The concentration of income and wealth in the hands of the elite is at its highest level since King was born in the roaring 20s. The record shows that Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign – his aborted fight against inequality of capital and opportunity – is in desperate need of revival.

Thanks to all who joined us as we gathered to revive and realize the dream.

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends,
that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now"

From “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence”
Delivered on April 4th, 1967, at Riverside Church

For more information about the Realizing the Dream Coalition click here


Related Topics: Martin Luther King