In the age of Trump, New Jersey activists speak out on the state of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of justice and equality

Glenn Townes | 1/14/2017, 9:30 a.m.
It's been nearly 50 years since one of the most powerful and pervasive voices in history—particularly for African Americans--was suddenly ...
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It's been nearly 50 years since one of the most powerful and pervasive voices in history—particularly for African Americans--was suddenly silenced by an assassin's bullet. Yet, the dream speech of equality and fairness earnestly preached and espoused to millions by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., still lives on or does it? The historic Voting Rights Act of 1965—one of several legacies of Dr. King’s legacy--continues to be rolled back and encumbered with complex voter ID laws and frequently specious district requirements by mostly Republican controlled state legislatures. With the inauguration of a decidedly ultra conservative presidential administration headed by billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the late, great Dr. Kings' goal of an equal world for all may indeed be in jeopardy.

This issue of the South Jersey Journal spotlights four Garden state community and social activists and asked them to respond to the question, Has Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for a more just and fair society for all people come to fruition? Also, if African Americans have indeed achieved at least some of Dr. King's dream, what will the new administration of Donald Trump do, if anything, to further those gains?

Oscar Holmes, IV, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management, Rutgers University School of Business in Camden, NJ is an outspoken educator and social activist. He writes, “King's dream of a just and fair society for all people is one of the most ambitious and principled goals that any American has proclaimed. Although civil right leaders like King, Hamer, Rustin, Lewis, and others have worked hard to secure more rights for Americans, unfortunately, nearly 50 years later King's dream of justice for all is still unrealized. This, by no means, suggests that the Civil Rights Movement was a failure, but rather a testament to the difficulty of achieving that goal. Undoubtedly, with the election of Trump, America will lose precious ground, on the Civil Rights front. Trump is a racist demagogue who with each televised speech and Cabinet appointment is showing the American people that he is unfit to be our next president and is intent on setting the country back.”

As vice president and communications chairman of the NAACP in Gloucester County--Williamstown, NJ, Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas is usually at the forefront of any discussion about civil rights. He said, “It would be quite ambitious to say the least for minority Americans to imply that the burdens of martyrdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, substantially solve all the socioeconomic problems of a largely excluded and historically discriminated population. We need to impress Dr. King's dream of equality and fairness on the new Trump administration to effect in him a conversion of heart, a growth in compassion and sensitivity to our plight as America's minority communities and Americans in general.”

Larry Chenault, a prominent businessman and community activist in Newark and Trenton shared similar sentiments. Chenault said, “No. King’s dream has not come to complete fruition. In today's society, politicians (as an example) are getting away with twisting, distorting and shading the truth about their agenda. If politicians cannot be just and fair in a public forum, how can we expect society to be “just and fair for all people?” Chennault added, “Our country still has many miles to travel before it can reach a level of fair play for everyone. I cannot say what will happen with the many gains African Americans have achieved over the years. I have no clue on what the new administration will do because of the twisting, distorting, and shading of the truth about their agenda during the campaign and then backtracking on those very same distorted, twisted, shaded agenda points after the election.”

Lastly, Richard Weber, Jr., an attorney for the LGBT community in partnership with Rutgers University Law School in Newark, said while significant strides in achieving MLK Jr.’s dream have indeed been made, a lot more must be done. Weber said, “I worry that much of the progress we have made as a people will be undone by the Trump administration over the next four years and even further into the future as his Supreme Court picks will remain on the bench for a generation. If the new president gets to select more than one Supreme Court Justice the court will be tipped to the right, and we can expect that it will uphold further laws which are designed to undermine the social progress we have made over the last half century.”

Trump will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017.

In a related matter, the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) will hold a post MLK Jr., celebration/business networking event on January 24th in Elmwood Park, NJ. For more information or to register for the event, please visit the AACCNJ web site at www.aaccnj.com.