‘What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore — and then run?’
— Langston Hughes
Queer leaders join forces to bring the goals of MLK, BLM and gender equality together
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
We tend to celebrate anniversaries in arbitrary increments of five years, so a 57th-year milestone might seem capricious. But for a group of devout leaders in North Texas, it could not be more timely.
On Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led his historic March on Washington and from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial spoke four words that resonate even still, more than a half-century later: “I Have a Dream.” (The following year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, largely as a result of that march.)
King imagined a dream of equality of men, which sadly has remained a dream for many American citizens, never more prevalent than during the summer of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, protests and an increasingly unhinged presidency. And what happens to a dream deferred?
These are among the factors that led the Rev. Winner Laws to join other spiritual leaders in Dallas in organizing a virtual celebration of the March on Washington, set to launch online Aug. 28.
Laws, who is the congregational care minister for both the Cathedral of Hope and the small Park Cities congregation The Gathering: A Womanist Church, was spurred to action not only because of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, but by the violence against several North Texas-based trans women of color this year.
“Darnell Williams [who runs the Coat of Colours group at COH] was the genesis,” Laws explains. “He thought we should recognize Martin Luther King and Black Lives Matter and transgender women. I said yes but wanted it to be a broader scope.”
Laws reached out to her colleagues in the spiritual community to gauge interest in what became “the vigil;” she received universal support. And it all came together quickly; the first meeting of the ad hoc committee, named Empowering Voices for Justice, was July 1; within eight weeks, an entire program was devised, including speakers ranging from ministers to teachers and authors, plus musical performances by the Turtle Creek Chorale, Voices of Hope, Denise Lee and more.
Laws specifically recruited participants who could all address the theme of the vigil, which was, in fact, not inspired by the “I Have a Dream” speech but by King’s earlier “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and his admonition that “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” (The phrase is often attributed to King, and he employed it multiple times, but it predates him by a century.)
“I wanted Carmarion Anderson, who is transgender, to speak using her voice [addressing] what the arc of justice means,” Laws says. “We wanted to address millennials, so minister Leah Jordan is going to shine a light on the millennial viewpoint. And Ray Jordan is our moderator and throughout the program will bring in historical points of view.”
The vigil, Laws feels, is sadly necessary at this time in our history.
“We recognize that the dream has not been realized and certain injustices are still occurring. It is going to take all of us to make it happen. So many people just focus on the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, but a dream takes work! Some of us got so far, but we still have a long way to go, especially in response to police violence. We wanted to bring together a program that would highlight on a spiritual note, a community note, that we all are acceptable from the viewpoint of God and that we should all live equally, regardless of race or gender. So we still have a lot of work to do.”
The program, which will stream beginning Aug. 28, will feature the following speakers: Ray Jordan, Darnell Williams, Leah Jordan, Alyce McKenzie, Carmarion Anderson, Carolyn Helsel and Will Horn; and will feature musical performances from Turtle Creek Chorale, Voices of Hope, New Texas Symphony Orchestra, Living Faith Community Church Choir, Denise Lee, the Douglas Family and Roscoe Compton.
The vigil can be viewed at LivingHopeServices.org/evfjustice. Donations may be made via CashApp to $LivingHopeServices.