Ring bells, but ignore Sheff!!!

Governor Malloy’s shocking approach to the 50th Anniversary of MLK Jr.’s speech:  Ring Bells, but ignore Sheff. 

In preparation for the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, Governor Malloy’s PR operation has kicked into high gear issuing a press release in which he asks “Residents & Organizations To Ring Bells Wednesday To Commemorate” King’s speech.

But in what is certainly one of the most disturbing developments during his three years in office, Malloy’s effort to “celebrate” one of the most important speeches in American history is directly at odds with his policies —- policies that completely fail to follow Dr. King’s vision what the United States can and must become.

50 years ago tomorrow, Martin Luther King said,

“I have a dream that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

In his historic speech, King laid out the evils of segregation and the fact our nation would never be able to live up to the true meaning of its creed as long as that segregation existed.

And yet here we are – fifty years later and 92 percent of Hartford Connecticut’s public school students are minority with more than 42 percent coming from homes whose primary language is not English.  In fact, Hartford Public Schools provide an education to a student population that speaks more than 70 languages.

But in the face of the incredible racial and ethnic isolation that has become the hallmark of Hartford and Connecticut’s other major urban areas, Governor Malloy has made it clear that he does not support additional efforts to reduce the segregation of our state’s schools.

According to a recent CT Mirror story, Thirty-seven percent of Hartford students attended integrated schools last school year.”

What integration efforts that have taken place in Connecticut are a direct result of the landmark Sheff v. O’Neill law suit that forced the state to develop a variety of voluntary desegregation policies.  It was seventeen years ago that the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that “the state is responsible for reducing the inequalities caused by the racial isolation of Hartford’s largely black and Hispanic student population.”

That ruling led to a series of benchmarks that were designed to promote integration.

But according to CT Mirror story, last Friday, Governor Malloy said that “the state should not be forced to agree to make changes to increase that percentage further.”

So despite the ruling of the Connecticut Supreme Court…

Despite all the evidence the reveals the importance and benefits of reducing racial isolation…

Despite the fundamental obligation we have to Martin Luther King Jr. and the other freedom fighters that have graced our nation…

Governor Malloy has announced that HE is satisfied with the present level of racial and ethnic isolation in the Constitution State.

In fact, Malloy explained, “Let me be very clear, I don’t think failing to reach a standard is a reason to then raise the standard…I don’t have a problem with the benchmarks as they currently exist. I have a problem when people say, ‘Well you didn’t meet that benchmark, so we are going to raise it.’ That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

It doesn’t make any sense to raise the benchmarks?

It doesn’t make any sense to use our public resources to promote additional voluntary initiatives to reduce racial isolation and promote desegregation?

On that fateful day in Washington D.C. in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. said;

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note 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.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. 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 quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

In the face of our nation’s continued failure to fulfill that promissory note, Governor Malloy issues a press release that reads,

“(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy is asking residents and organizations to ring bells at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 28, as part of a nationwide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s renowned “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Dr. King’s message of freedom, equality and liberty resonates as strongly today as it did fifty years ago,” Governor Malloy said.  “Never before has a single speech had such a dramatic and positive impact on our nation.  Let’s honor the message of Dr. King’s speech and the many civil rights, labor and religious organizations that organized to spread his words.  Let’s not take for granted all that they fought so hard for.  Especially now, at a time when some states are pursuing new laws that constrain the fundamental right to vote, we cannot forget that the fight for equal opportunity, equal justice, and an equal voice in our democracy never ends.”

To Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and the other individuals responsible for Connecticut education policy, such as State Board of Education Chairman Alan Taylor and Hartford Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland, I say shame… shame on you.

As we prepare to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech, shame on you Governor Malloy…

And shame on the rest of you policy makers for not standing up to challenge Malloy’s outrageous comments about the need to expand the Sheff initiatives.

Here is the full text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech.  Instead of issuing proclamations about ringing bells, the Governor and his allies would do well to actually read it and appreciate the true meaning of its words.

I Have A Dream Speech:  September 28, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note 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.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. 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 quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”