Stride Towards Freedom: The Legacy of M.L.K. and Barack Obama and Keeping our Eyes on the Prize

Edwin Buggage | 1/10/2017, 6:15 p.m. | Updated on 1/10/2017, 6:15 p.m.
As I look back on that windy and frigid day on January 20, 2009, it was a day our nation ...

One Nation Indivisible

As I look back on that windy and frigid day on January 20, 2009, it was a day our nation celebrated both the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Weekend and the Inauguration of the Nation’s first African-American President, Barack Obama. As Americans from all stripes and walks of life convened on the National Mall, it was a time filled with us saying we have reached the promise land in a nation where the content of one’s character trumped the color of a person’s skin when choosing the leader of our country. It seemed during this time that we’d come a long way on our journey in our “Stride Toward Freedom” the title of a book by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that chronicles the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956. It seemed over a half-century later post racial America was possible and that a new day of racial reconciliation was on the horizon as the world celebrated the victory of not only Barack Obama, but of the American people and democracy.

Obama’s Legacy

I can say that as I look back after these eight-years the nation is headed in the right direction. While President Obama has had to fight against obstructionist in Congress, even Stevie Wonder can see his many accomplishments as the Commander-in-Chief. First, he led the charge of bringing America back from a potential financial collapse, he also found and eliminated the leader responsible for 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden. On the international front, he helped broker the Iran Nuclear Deal, in addition to negotiating the groundbreaking Paris Climate Agreement. On the domestic front on his watch we have seen the reduction of the unemployment rate cut in half, the beginning stages of reforming our broken Criminal Justice System, Marriage Equality becoming the law of the land and most importantly the Affordable Care Act, that’s given millions of people access to Healthcare.

Keeping Our Eyes on The Prize

In these times, we can proudly say that we have witnessed the widening of the lanes of democracy and freedom of an emerging and more diverse America. But as we celebrate us moving forward conversely, there are those who are not happy with this direction and have chosen Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election, who will be sworn into office on January 20, 2017 as our 45th President of the United States. While I would agree with many in saying this is distressing many of us who are involved in the struggle for equal rights and justice; it is in this time that the clarion call must be made to all as we must not sit idly by and allow turning back the hands of time on the progress many have fought and died for. It is time for us to re-engage and keep our eyes on the prize.

Passing the Baton: A New Breed of Leaders Must Emerge

We must realize that yes these are trying times, but we are talking about a people who have survived slavery, Jim Crow and the 21st Century Racism that continues to exist in America. It is time for us to re-engage and join with decent like-minded people who I still feel are most Americans and continue to make our collective stride toward freedom. I feel it is in the best interest of our nation to do so. Most importantly, this fight must be led by our young people. It is in these times that they take the mantle of leadership that previous generations of young people like John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Andrew Young did during the struggle for Civil Rights. This list also includes our own local Civil Rights icons such as the Rev. Avery Alexander, Jerome Smith, Julia Aaron Humble, Don Hubbard, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, Dorothy Mae Taylor, Oretha Castle Haley and many others who had the courage to take a stand in the fight for freedom, justice and equality.