Today, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I spent the morning reading and reflecting on the Civil Rights Movement; considering what has been accomplished and what remains unfinished.
As he proposed the Voting Rights Act (1965), President Johnson said, “Even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over.” Never had truer words been spoken.
Jon Meacham wrote, “In a new report, the National Urban League is using the mark of 50 years since the march (on Washington) to measure the state of black America. In terms of education, the league notes that the high school completion gap has closed by 57 points, the number of African Americas in college has tripled, and there are now five college graduates for every one in 1963. When it comes to standards of living, the percentage of African Americans living in poverty has fallen 23 points (the figure for black children is 22%) and homeownership among blacks has increased 14%.”
“Then there are the all too familar failures. ‘In the past 50 years,’ the Urban League reports, ‘the black-white income gap has only closed by 7 points (now at 60%). The unemployment rate has only closed by 6 points (now at 52%).’ (Only at 100% will the gap have disappeared.) Overall, the racial unemployment ratio is unchanged since 1963, at ‘about 2-to-1–regardless of education, gender, region of the country or income level.’ These numbers as well as enduring inequalities in the criminal justice system…suggest that neither the march nor the movement isreally done.” (Meacham, Jon and Rhodan, Maya. “One Man.” Time, August 26/September 2, 2013; Vol. 182, No. 9, 2013, p. 43).
Cultural change involves far more than legislation or policy. In this case, it involves significant bridgebuilding through relationships and skill building through education and training. GoodCities is working with leaders from 15 cities to create good jobs and close the employment gap. It’s a critical piece of city transformation.
Above is a photo I took of a portion of Frank J. Brown’s sculpture, Living the Dream, in Madison, WI. This part of the piece depicts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching in a heavy robe. Glenn Barth