Like many of us, my generation was not yet around when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his impassioned speech, from which those immortal words would rise to inspire, organize, and empower generations to come. Yet, perhaps like me, you feel connected to those words, to that moment, as if you had been standing among the 250,000 people who gathered in Washington, D.C., (without the use of Twitter or Facebook) at what would become the largest demonstration to date in American history – a demonstration led not by anger, hate nor fear, but by love and hope.
The words delivered that day when Dr. King cast aside his prepared remarks and followed the advice of Mahalia Jackson, who suggested he “Tell ‘em about the dream Martin, tell ‘em about the dream,” set a standard by which we measure our nation’s success and morality as a collective society in advancing economic and social equality for all. And while some might suggest that the election of our first African American President signals a great advancement toward achieving the dream, the truth is – we have a long way to go.
We have a long way to go when families working a 40-hour workweek can’t make ends meet because they earn poverty wages, and when 11 million aspiring Americans still live in the shadows and in fear of deportation, without a voice in our economy or democracy.
We have a long way to go when our unemployment and high school dropout rates disproportionately impact our communities of color and those with the lowest income, and when our youth who do graduate are unable to afford a college education that will not only present a pathway to prosperity for them, but our nation as well.
We have a long way to go when targeted populations of Americans are denied their fundamental voting rights, and when the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the faith in which we believe can be the cause of a life cut short.
We have a long way to go when healthcare remains out of reach for millions of families and groups mobilize to thwart the life-saving promises of healthcare for all, and when the voices of working people are threatened with being silenced, as the greed of a few ultra wealthy Americans remains the priority over “liberty and justice for all.”
Yes, we have a long way to go, but I believe in the dream and our ability to achieve it together as we have witnessed the power, strength, and progress that can occur when we stand united, with one voice, unwavering in the face of those threatened by our collective vision and committed to crushing it.
Through my work in the labor movement, I have been personally reminded of the impact of our collective strength when we stood with Rose Mary Gudiel and her elderly mother and stopped the senseless and unjustified foreclosure on their home. I have been reminded of this strength when we camped out with the Occupy movement and pushed back against corporate greed and proclaimed, “Enough is enough”. And I am reminded of our strength as we work diligently to make the passage of comprehensive immigration reform a key priority for our nation.
As we celebrate this profound moment in our country’s history, we would be doing it an injustice if we spoke of that remarkable day only in its past tense. Instead, we must take the opportunity to place that moment from our past into our future by renewing our commitment to Dr. King’s dream and what it stands for.
Through the power of social media and advancing technology, we have the ability to organize and amplify our voices in ways the 250,000 people who gathered in Washington, D.C., could not conceive. Imagine what that day on the Mall would have been like if its organizers could have Twitted out #MarchOnWashington or had a Facebook page to “like” and share with those within their networks of friends. Imagine how the fight for Civil Rights would have progressed if these social awareness tools had existed.
While we recognize that we have a long way to go to achieve the dream, there is no doubt in my mind that we have the ability to step closer to that dream than ever before. We have the ability to improve the lives of millions of people who call this great country “home” and to make our country stronger by winning the fight for higher wages for working families, protecting voting rights, demanding a path to citizenship, delivering affordable healthcare for all, accepting nothing less than equal justice, stopping cuts to vital services, and achieving a voice in the workplace once and for all.
As we commemorate the March on Washington, I ask the generations that have only experienced the wake of that great day in 1963: What you will do to move the dream forward? How will you harness the tools and networks before you to not let this moment silently go by, but rather to share what the dream means to you and your commitment to its fulfillment? Without our collective action the dream will remain just that – a dream. Exercise the rights given to you by those who came before us. If you believe in it, tweet it. If you feel it, post it. Let this mark the moment in which we stand united to send a clear message to those who work against us that the dream is not dead, but rather burns stronger than ever in the hearts and souls of new generations. Ignite your activism by expressing your commitment to social and economic equality so that in the next fifty years we will be able to look back and reminisce with great pride on how we took one man’s shared dream and made it a reality.
You can watch the speech on YouTube HERE.
FREE festival provided back-to-school backpacks for students as well as free entertainment, lunch, and health screenings for the entire family.
More than 20,000 adults and children attended the 2013 Fresh Start Community Festival at Dodger Stadium – the largest number of attendees since the Festival started four years ago. The daylong event was presented by SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW), the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. Started by ULTCW in 2010, the free Festival was created as a way to help those hit hardest by the economic downturn.
“The Fresh Start Community Festival is all about lifting up our community and making sure our children have what they need for a successful start to the school year,” said Laphonza Butler, President of SEIU ULTCW. “Although we hear that the economy is improving, there are still countless families here in Los Angeles and throughout our state who struggle every day to make ends meet and could use a little help and a Fresh Start.”
“The Los Angeles Dodgers are proud to be part of the ‘Fresh Start Community Festival’ and in providing our schoolchildren the supplies and the encouragement they need to succeed in school,” said Stan Kasten, President and CEO, Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Festival provided children 5-15 years of age with free back-to-school backpacks, haircuts for young boys, manicures for young girls, and health screenings, entertainment and lunch for the entire family.
“In 2010 we were able to help approximately 7,000 adults and children. Since then, the Fresh Start Community Festival has nearly doubled in size each year and has also been held in Oakland,” said Butler. “Through the involvement of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation as well as other sponsors, we were able to reach more families this year than ever before.”
Participants also enjoyed performances throughout the day by the DeLeon Circus, Tyghtship, DJ Sloe Poke, Aaron Nigel Smith, Mariachi Juvenil Plaza de la Raza, Very Be Careful, the Taiko Drummers, Bob Baker Marionettes, Mad Science, a Lion Dance, Rhythm Child Network, Rockie the Clown, Tommy the Clown, and of course the Fresh Start mascot – Esperanza.
This year’s Fresh Start Community Festival was made possible through the generous support of SEIU ULTCW, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, Levy Cares, Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, The Brotherhood Crusade, Honda, and SEIU Locals 99 and 721.
SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW) is California’s leading long term care organization dedicated to providing and protecting quality care for some of our most vulnerable residents. SEIU ULTCW represents 180,000 in-home care providers and nursing home workers throughout California, making it the largest union of long term care givers in California and the second largest SEIU local in the nation.
While many families continue to struggle in this difficult economy, ULTCW and the Los Angeles Dodgers believe that everyone deserves a Fresh Start. So bring your families for a day long festival filled with music, school giveaways, special surprises, health-screenings and much more!
Want to give back to your community? Volunteer opportunities are available!
See you there!
LOS ANGELES – Today, SEIU ULTCW and SEIU UHW members stood united for a fair contract and safe facilities by speaking out against Windsor nursing homes’ attempts to reduce the number of caregivers providing care to its residents and to cut worker benefits.
Windsor, a California-based company that has grown to 34 homes throughout the state, is trying to reduce its contributions toward health insurance and sick leave and offer its workers a less than 1% wage increase. In addition, the company has been slowly reducing the number of caregivers who provide care to residents, thereby putting many residents at risk and increasing pressure on its CNAs.
“Fighting for a fair contract that helps ensure the safety of Windsor residents along with the wages and benefits that allow caregivers to continue to provide this vital care is a top priority of our members,” said Sam Cook, Director of the SEIU ULTCW’s nursing home division. “We’ll continue to speak out and take action against Windsor’s attempts to shortchange its residents and caregivers.”