Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for America “where people would be judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin, where little black boys and black girls would be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Fifty years later, America is no doubt a very different nation than it was in 1963, especially concerning the rights of African-Americans and racial integration. Yet the widening disparity of wealth and deepening social tensions that precipitated the March on Washington are as topical today as they were in the sixties. The underlying conflicts and tensions that erupted in the sixties—conflicts and tensions that had been festering since the founding of our country—remain unresolved.
Inspired by the Declaration of Independence and forged by the Black experience in America, the modern civil rights movement was a philosophy of life designed to address these inconsistencies in American democracy. It was a philosophy of humility and hope, of pragmatism and idealism, and of individualism and the “Beloved Community,” indeed a second American revolution, that aspired to integrate the divided soul of the nation and inaugurate a new era of progress and possibility.
Fifty years later, as the nation and the world face daunting social, political, and environmental challenges that demand a “new” paradigm, a new vision, for how we can relate to each other as human beings, the timing could not be better to revisit “The Dream Speech” and the wisdom of the civil rights movement.
THE DREAM@50 is a tribute series in 2012–13 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Including a student art contest (K–12), a world music/dance festival, and video PSAs, THE DREAM@50 is a celebration of creative collaboration in both the civil rights movement and the arts as the foundation for a new paradigm in how we can live together. The goal of THE DREAM@50 Art Contest is to embrace the arts as a vehicle for bringing this history alive for students today in order to clarify the lessons of the past and to empower our students with the tools to make a difference and make the dream a reality.
Past contest participant Kelly Moore (artwork above) wrote in her entry’s essay, “I wanted to communicate the universal idea that love overcomes all evil. While I was doing research on the civil rights movement, I came across a photograph of an African-American couple embracing right after a church bombing by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, AL. I began drawing silhouettes of the couple in charcoal. When the charcoal part was finished I decided to make it a multimedia piece and used chalk pastels for the cloudy smoke effect of the bomb and watercolor for a running figure. I used warm colors to represent the love that the embracing couple shared and how it overcomes evil.”
Moore continues, “In making the work I realized that the civil rights movement wasn’t just about African-Americans overcoming injustice: it was about love conquering evil. And by love, I mean the passion of those people who fought for their human rights. Something as simple as two human beings holding each other during hardship made me realize that we all have the power to overcome adversity.”
K–12 students in ten cities (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Memphis, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland) are invited to submit artwork inspired by a word or phrase from Dr. King’s “Dream Speech.” Over $10,000 in award prizes for the winning students and their teachers in each of ten featured cities, and the winning artwork to be publicized on buses, trains,and billboards, and at airports, museums, and public libraries throughout the country. Students are also invited to submit video tributes.
The Dream@50 clarifies the lessons of the civil rights movement for today, demonstrates the vital importance of the arts in education and daily life, and celebrates the values and goals that we all share as Americans. The tributes encourage creativity and collaboration in the classroom and empower our students with the tools to make the world better.