Most everyone is familiar with the “I have a dream…” part of MLK’s, but the full speech has a harrowing message that rings just as strongly today as it did 60 years ago.
Since the death of George Floyd (and so many others), the fight for justice and equality came back to the forefront–this time on the world stage. Martin Luther King’s words prove themselves to hold just as much strength now as America continues to stand up and push for equality for all.
In New York City, organizations continue to rally for these efforts and work toward a more inclusive community. These organizations are based on the ground here at home, and the door is open for you to get involved. In remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King and in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s never been a better time to get involved.
Here are just a few areas where organizations are doing the work and inviting the help:
Strength in Community
In King’s speech, he cites the beauty of the land of America, from the mighty mountains of New York to the mole hills of Mississippi and beyond. In painting this picture, he reminds us that we are all one community of people; we are all Americans.
The truth is, the socioeconomic divide persists. Poverty is a multifaceted issue. An estimated 39% of Black children live in poverty–a stark contrast to the 14% of white children living in poor conditions, with less access to quality resources. For these communities, poverty influences almost every aspect of life and strips away many of the freedoms and advantages that are promised to the American people.
Beautifying struggling neighborhoods goes a long way in creating a safe and healthy community for those who live in it, and it can have a lasting impact on the quality of life. WeAct is one of these organizations with an intention to support education and efforts for environmental protection in BIPOC communities. You can donate and find other ways to get involved here.
Achievement through Education
The surface level racial disparities seep into the education system of our students. Black students are more likely to attend schools with fewer resources and lesser quality teaching and curriculum, leading to a racial divide in opportunity throughout life.
Progress has gradually been made in America: the achievement gap in both reading and mathematics narrowed from 32 to 25 points between White and Black students since 1990–indicating the gap can be closed but work still must be done.
The Urban Youth Collaborative is doing that work. This organization is the collective voice of students in New York seeking change and advancement in the system, with a particular focus on ending the school-to-jail trajectory that befalls so many.
The original push came from Bushwick and the Northwest Bronx, but the organization has spread to encompass all of New York City. Their work focuses on all elements of education reform, and empowerment of young people to “shift structural systems and policy.”
You can help raise these voices and give power to the youth by donating to help fund their campaigns.
COVID and Healthcare
Structural racism has found its way into education, housing, and even healthcare. This became ever clear in the wake of the coronavirus. While the pandemic urged social distancing, Black communities had to deal with congestion in their neighborhoods. As the world was urged to stay isolated inside, a disproportionately large amount of essential jobs were conducted by Black workers. The COVID crisis brought those disparities to the forefront again, and urged a renewed call to action.
Mutual Aid answered that call. Unlike traditional charities, Mutual Aid is a community organization. Their goal is to provide the resources–in any shape or form they need–to those who need it. This can include tutoring for students, childcare for workers, mental health, job seeking, and so much more.
With such a breadth of offering, there is plenty of room to lend a hand. Find out how you can volunteer or donate here.
COVID isn’t the first and only invisible monster disproportionately affecting black communities. According to a 2018 report from the CDC, 42% of HIV diagnoses were among Black Americans.
The National Black Leadership Commission on Health has become a valient leader in the war on AIDS. Rooted in the values of Black empowerment and equity, their focus is on eradicating HIV/AIDS as well as other widespread health concerns, including hepatitis C, sickle cell, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental health. You can reach out for volunteer or intern opportunities, or help them reach their goals through donation.
Liberty and justice for all
MLK stood for civil rights, and the long-standing NAACP has been carrying this torch. Founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, this organization has deep roots in civil rights. Their mission is to stand up against all sorts of discrimination, from voting and education to housing and healthcare.
The thing is, fighting for equality among the Black community means full representation. This was the goal of MLK when he made his speech nearly 60 years ago. He said:
“[The Declaration of Independence] was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
To make good on this guarantee, all men, women, and gender-nonconforming people must be protected. The Audre Lorde Project stepped up for LGBTQ groups within the black community, providing supportive resources.You can add to the collective through donation, involvement, or leadership.
And if Liberty means freedom, then those who are wrongfully incarcerated are those in need of immediate action. The Brooklyn Bail Fund was set up to release those who are wrongfully held within a flawed prison system.
The Emergency Release Fund fights the same battle. It was set up to pay the bail of people wrongfully detained either at Rikers or by Immigration. Both accept donations.
Make the Road
Part of MLK’s campaign was drawing attention to the fact that no matter your color, we share a destiny. He said:
“many of our white brothers…have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny, and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”
Make the Road is working to pave the way for equality. Their aim is to bring all people together–including immigrants, LGBTQIA, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples– to walk the same path to full freedom and integrity in the United States. They put the focus on several areas of racial disparity, including education, health, housing and environmental justice, immigration, and policing.
Ultimately, Make the Road aims to create a safer community for each and every person who lives here. They offer plenty of helpful information on their website for those who want to take action.
Getting involved in the community is one of the many great ways to honor MLK’s legacy and continue to build a more accepting, inclusive, and equal America.
To draw one final note from the source:
“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Thanks to Stanford University for this transcript of “I Have A Dream” by Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.