How many times have we heard the phrase by Martin Luther King Jr from his famous 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, USA?
In that speech he declared his vision of the future where blacks and whites will live together as equals.
Are we there yet? Has the world changed a lot since 1963?
The answer is both yes and no, depending on what we ponder and who we ask.
Everything depends also on the context; if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate and also where you live in the world.
If we look at the apartheid system that once was the norm in South Africa, life has become better since the racist policy ended in 1994. It has been a while since the laws were changed in South Africa, but has it become a perfect place now, is it equal? Yes, apartheid has been outlawed now, and that is good. White people have even been prosecuted and put in jail for using racist language against black people.
Also black people don’t need to show a certain document before they are allowed to pass through a “white” area. Still, the difference in the living conditions of the black and white population in South Africa is huge. Too many of the black population live in poor huts made of corrugated sheets and scraps of wood.
People living in the slums don’t have access to running water in their homes, and still there is a large difference in the level of education between blacks and whites.
Recently, I read a book, Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. Mr Noah was born in South Africa, his father a white man from Switzerland and his mother a black South African. Trevor Noah was born during apartheid and it was criminal for black and white people to have any kind of intimate relation.
Nevertheless Trevor Noah’s parents met and fell in love, one thing led to another as it often does, and another mixed baby came to the world. As it was against the law in South Africa, Trevor Noah’s parents couldn’t live together and raise the child. Baby Noah had to be kept hidden in the slum outside Cape Town.
As long as he was a baby there wasn’t a huge problem to keep him hidden, but kids grow and the troubles grow with them. Trevor Noah learnt street-smart skills.
He had to manage a lot on his own, and for a kid growing up in such environment, it is a matter of survival. Life was tough for everyone in his community, people were poor and fought every day for their survival. There was not plenty of room for empathy and especially not for a mixed kid. Who was he? Among the white he was considered black and among blacks as white. Coming from this background Trevor Noah had to create his own way of living, and his way out of poverty was education and a creative mind.
He moved around in his community and learned all the spoken languages of South Africa. He learned how to use his language skills and his fast thinking when he interacted with people. Everyday life was a fight, but Trevor Noah’s weapon was his tongue. He had this ability to connect with people and joke with them they were made to like this strange mixed boy. Now, as an adult, he hosts his own TV show in the US.
He invites guests to his show which airs every evening. They speak about everything between heaven and earth, high and low, serious and funny. Trevor Noah even has his broadcasts on Youtube where they show him interacting with the audience during commercial breaks. I have never seen anything like that before. Trevor Noah might have been born as a crime, but he has a rare gift he is sharing with the world.
The former host of the TV show, The Daily Show, heard about Trevor Noah and his skills. Mr Jon Stewart wanted to retire so he came with the great idea to offer the job to Trevor. The TV show was very popular and had been broadcast for many years. The host was a white male and he offered the job to Trevor Noah, a mixed race man from South Africa. So, to go back to my question from the beginning, had the world changed since 1963? Yes, in that matter it has.
I have finished reading a book about Michelle Obama, the former First Wife of the US.
The book Becoming and is very interesting. Michelle Obama lived in a neighborhood that became deteriorated over time with shops closing and gun violence increasing. Michelle was raised by parents committed to their family. She and her brother Craig were brought up in an apartment, in a house owned by her aunt.
Mrs Obama’s father worked at a power plant and even though he suffered from multiple sclerosis he never missed a day at work. The mother took care of the home and made sure that Michelle and her brother took their studies seriously from the beginning. The parents understood that the only way out of poverty was education and dedication. Mr and Mrs Robinson, Michelle Obama’s parents had a dream for their children, as most parents do. They never allowed themselves or their children to leave the right path to success.
Michelle Obama, then Robinson, met her husband-to-be Barack at a law firm where Michelle was hired as a junior lawyer.
One of her responsibilities was to take care of the newly-baked young lawyers who came there to work during the summer. The more she got to know this man with what she thought a strange name, the more fascinated she became.
When I was reading Michelle Obama’s book I clearly saw that this fascination has never stopped. Barack was, from the first moment they met, a man with a dream. Call it a vision if you like, but nevertheless he had his mind set on changing the world for the better.
Michelle and Barack got married, worked hard and with commitment. They got two daughters, Malia and Sasha whom they raised with love and an awareness of what responsibilities we all have for doing the best of our strengths and opportunities. When Barack became the president of USA it was revolutionary! A black man as the president of the land of opportunities. Who would have thought that when Rosa Parks once refused to change her seat in a bus?
Barack and Michelle realized from the beginning that the eyes of the world laid upon them. As a black couple in this position, they had to be twice as good as a white couple. Every word, every gesture, every facial expression was weighed and valued. This was not only by white people, but also by their own people.
In the middle of all commotion as a presidential couple they had to raise two young daughters.
It is not easy for young kids to understand that their daddy is the president. How to prepare them for that? How to protect them, letting them live a life as normal as possible and at the same time make them aware that people are watching them too? Their friends at school shunned them a bit at the beginning, but kids are kids. They take it as it is and make no fuss.
Barack Obama didn’t just wake up one day and found himself being the president. It was a long and hard process, filled with ups and downs, but he was always driven by his dream. Michelle Obama, as the First Wife, had a lot of influence too. She founded her own projects, fought for girls’ education and against childhood obesity. She was a popular speaker and often referred to her upbringing as a black girl living in a similar neighborhood to where a lot of people still live today. It was important for her to tell that to people, to show that it is possible to follow a dream even if the road to success is long and bumpy.
It doesn’t matter what kind of dream you have, the only way to fulfill them is through determination. You don’t have to be a young person to work on your dreams. My mother, for example, never had the opportunity to study when she was young. She had to begin working as a 17-year-old, met my father, got pregnant, got married and became a mother at 19. This was not the life she had dreamt about, but at least she was able to fulfill some parts of her studies. At around 50 years old she got her high school diploma, a proud moment.
“I am not afraid to dream. You first have to start with a dream, build your castles in the air and give it foundation. Without a dream you are not going to get anywhere.” This was said by Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh secretary general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006.
I dreamt of becoming a writer for many years and it took a while but finally I’m here. As Kofi Annan said, it all begins with a dream.
The slave dreams about freedom, parents dream about a better life for their children. A politician dreams about a better life for his/her country, a journalist keeps on haunting the politician so that she or he doesn’t forget the dream. Dreams are a force that keep us make more effort, take one more step and never give up.
Teachers and parents tell the kids to stop day-dreaming, kids lose focus when their thoughts are on something else than the task. That can be really annoying, especially as a teacher, but there is always a reason for it. It can be hot in the classroom, the student might have some kind of problem – or it is occupied with something that feels much more interesting than the subject the teacher is speaking about.
Maybe the child is thinking about how to build a vehicle that can change its size depending on where it is driven and how much cargo or people it must carry.
Everything begins with a dream; the light bulb, the mobile phone, the electricity, the airplanes and the democracy in The Gambia. Some dreams are harder than others to fulfill. Those who dreamt of a free Gambia suffered a lot. Some of them had to die for their convictions, others are alive but traumatized. We have come one step in the right direction… every journey begins with the first step.