Share The Dream: Chris Broussard on MLK’s Dream

Share The Dream: Chris Broussard on MLK’s Dream

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August 2023 is the 60th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  UMI (Urban Ministries Inc.) has partnered with Harper Christian Resources, and the K.I.N.G. Movement to honor, celebrate, and share the lessons of MLK through the Share the Dream Project and curriculum. UrbanFaith sat down with the award winning journalist and Fox Sports commentator, K.I.N.G. Movement President, and co-host of Share The Dream Chris Broussard to talk about the project and MLK’s legacy 60 years after the “I Have A Dream” speech. The full interview is above, excerpts are below edited for length and clarity. 

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Chris Broussard co-host of Share the Dream

 

Allen

We are talking about something so special, which is the 60th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It has inspired us and inspire others to honor and celebrate the legacy through a project called “Shared the Dream.” And so today I am here with the commentator, the journalist, the host, the co-host for this project, Mr. Chris Broussard, who has just been someone who’s been at the forefront of helping push the dream forward.

 

Chris

It’s great to join you, Allen. And wow, thank you for that introduction. I’ll try to live up to it in this interview, but it’s great to be with you guys at UrbanFaith. And this Share the Dream project is something that’s special, something that’s anointed, and something that we do hope and believe can have a great impact in our country.

Allen

In a lot of ways it feels like we see Dr. King as a meme, right? Like it’s just a picture on social media with a quote taken out of context. People don’t even know for the I have a dream speech, that he starts with laying out the problems before he gets to a vision for what we could do together. Can you talk a little bit about what it looks like to have a vision going forward and why it’s so important to learn from our history and address those realities before we rush to the vision that God might have for us being united and being one?

Chris

No, that’s a great question. Because a lot of times you hear talk about racial reconciliation. And to some people, like I said, does that mean a hug? Does that mean, you know, just some superficial gatherings, but not addressing the issues that left us unreconciled and leave us unreconciled? As you said, most people don’t even know that Dr. King addressed those issues before he said, “I have a dream” and all that stuff. And of course, later in his life, he really to some degree was distraught and disheartened when he really looked at the economic differences. And obviously he knew that [before]. But, in the South the racism was so overt that they were addressing those situations. Blacks couldn’t go here; blacks couldn’t go there. You just address those issues. And then we went up to the North and you saw the economic conditions that many Africans Americans were living in. In the North there [wasn’t persistent] legal segregation, but blacks were clearly getting the short end of the stick. It really disheartened him, and he had to rethink and was in the process of even thinking like, “Okay, how are we going to address this?” And he did have ideas and he talked about redistribution of wealth and all that stuff.

I think the key is that, our white brothers and sisters, particularly in the church, have been miseducated on the history of America. All the talk about a great Christian nation, and manifest destiny and the city on the hill. What about the way African-Americans and Native Americans were treated? And so that miseducation informs the way a lot of whites view the racial situation today. And by using a lot of Dr. King’s principles and teaching, like we want to hopefully shed light on how the true racial history of America, as bad as it was, in the past, but also how it impacts us today. How it impacts the disparities you see today and the tension and the distrust that you see today and all the events that we’ve seen in the past few years. All of that is a remnant to some degree of much of the past. The wealth gap. That’s not just because whites have worked hard, and blacks haven’t. It’s not because of that at all. It is because of things like the federal housing administration loans that were given out to mainly overwhelmingly white Americans in the from the 1930s on into the 1960s that built these beautiful white suburbs. The red lining of the African-American neighborhoods that have cost African-American families on average hundreds of thousands of dollars. These are the things [that must be addressed]. It’s not just let’s go have dinner together and be friends. It is let’s address these economic issues that really were created by the racism of the past and address the those. And then [there can] be some real racial unity and we can have some real robust discussions about how we can solve these problems that we have today. So yeah, I think that’s, you know, part of what we’re trying to do with Share the Dream.

Allen

[In this curriculum] you outline the six principles of Dr. King’s legacy beautifully: Conscience, justice, perseverance, hope, freedom, and love.] What principles have you seen stand out in your own life or be most influential to you or what were your favorite ones to share in the series?

Chris

Yeah man, there’s so many. I think to some degree I’ve addressed a little bit of the conscience of really making America in particular, many of our white Christian brothers and sisters aware of the true history of this country. I’ve talked to whites who have talked about city on the hill and the great Christian heritage of America, who have talked about slavery as if it was just a little blind spot. It was just a little mistake. I’m like “No, you understand that the reason America was able to become the greatest superpower we’ve ever seen was on the backs of slavery.” So that is a part of it trying to just awaken that consciousness within white Americans to understand. So, I think that’s the conscience. I could focus more on justice as well. Yes, we see overt acts [of racism] here and there. But a lot of it is subtle. If you if you don’t have a deeper understanding of it and really dig beneath the surface, you can get the wrong idea of the racial situation in America today. [Racist policies] created the wealth gap and all of that, that’s a part of the justice we need to look at. I’ll quickly just throw out one more, the perseverance. Like a lot of time, I think a lot of people have been beaten down, particularly African Americans by the situation in America today, by the persistence of the oppression. Where they have given up, where they just decided, nothing can improve for us overall or for me individually. It can affect your decision making and things like that. Whereas you look back in the day when Dr. King was marching and even before that, in the face of even worse oppression, you did have, I would say, you probably had more perseverance and hope within the Black community than you do today. And I believe a lot of that was because Dr. King and many of the people that were working with him were rooted in Jesus Christ. And when you’re rooted in Christ, no matter how bad things look on the outside, you will have hope. As bad as things look in this country, I do have hope because of the gospel and the transformative power of the gospel and how it can change a person and a people’s outlook on life, worldview, and decision-making behavior, all of that. And I think that’s what our ancestors had. And that’s what gave them the perseverance and the hope through slavery, through Jim Crow.  We have more opportunities and freedom today, but many of us lack the same perseverance and hope that our ancestors had. So that’s something I would wanna highlight as well. Why did they have that hope? Let me tap into that reason behind their perseverance.

Allen

Yeah, I mean, they were so rooted in their faith. And I really appreciate this series pointing that out, highlighting that, bringing that to the forefront, because a lot of times people forget that Dr. King was a minister, right? Like he wasn’t just some great speaker and marcher, he was a minister. You got to work with his friend Andrew Young who was there. What are some of the lessons that you feel like people take away from being able to hear from some elders and from some other folks who are part of the project in the video series in the curriculum?

Chris

Well, I think that’s a great question. I think Ambassador Young, he obviously gets accolades and people understand and talk about what he did in the past and his involvement in the movement and all of that. But I don’t think people understand and fully give him the credit for just being how great of a man he is. And to your point, a man of faith. People want to divorce the faith of Dr. King from what he did. They want to divorce [him from his faith]. I could go on and on Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, even Marcus Garvey who [was] a Christian. People want to divorce or [history from faith]. They want to look at these great actions of our ancestors and yet and not look at the sources of their power and the source of their wisdom and the things that they fought for and fought against and stated and so on and so forth. And Ambassador Young is also like that. Ambassador Young is a great man of faith. And I get that we should focus on the other things he talks about and the things he fights for. And everything’s not a religious conversation. But I think it is important that people understand, especially in this day and age, where faith is being marginalized. Christian faith has sustained us as a community and as a people and is now being marginalized, tossed aside, watered down and things like that. It’s important to see in a great man like Ambassador Young that his faith has always been vibrant and to this day is vibrant. And that that’s what motivated him and led him to be able to do and have the strength to do what he did.

 

Belafonte, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z: Are Black Stars Obligated to ‘Give Back’?

Belafonte, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z: Are Black Stars Obligated to ‘Give Back’?

HARRY BELFAFONTE: “They have turned their back on social responsibility,” opined the activist and actor about today’s black celebrities. (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikipedia)

Harry Belafonte is a legendary entertainer, known for his iconic performances in films like Carmen Jones, Buck and the Preacher, and Calypso. And who can forget his award-winning “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)”? However, in a long and distinguished career, Belafonte’s greatest accomplishments arguably may be his involvement with the civil rights movement.

During the ’50s and ’60s, Belafonte was one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s biggest supporters and endorsers. He fully believed in the message and movement that King worked so tirelessly to establish. Belafonte provided financial support for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council (SNCC), and he also participated in several rallies and protests alongside King. Still a civic-minded crusader today at age 85, he continues to live his life as an outspoken activist for social justice and equality.

Belafonte has never been one to shy away from social commentary or hold his tongue in conversation. He has been known for his honest comments and straightforward critiques about politics, show business, and society.

In an interview last week with the Hollywood Reporter, when asked whether or not he was happy with the images of minorities portrayed in Hollywood, he caused a stir by calling out two famous black celebrities by name.  “I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities,” Belafonte began. “But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example.”

JAY-Z AND BEYONCE: Is it fair to compare the altruism and social involvement of today’s stars to those of the civil rights era? (Photo: Ivan Nikolov/WENN/Newscom)

Belafonte believes that industry heavyweights like Jay-Z and Beyoncé have a social responsibility to be outspoken regarding issues of race, prejudice, and civil injustices, mainly because they have the social influence and public platform to do so. Janelle Harris at Essence echoed those sentiments. “There’s been an ugly dumbing down when it comes to acknowledging and addressing pertinent issues, even having empathy for and interest in what’s impacting our community. It’s an attitude of detachment,” she said.

She added: “I agree with Harry Belafonte. I think young people could be doing more. Twenty, thirty, forty-somethings. It’s not just the celebrities, though they’re certainly part of the vanguard for making philanthropy and activism cool, which is unfortunately necessary for some folks to get involved.”

Jay-Z and Beyoncé are definitely the closest thing the black community has to pop-culture royalty today. The hip-hop power couple topped Forbes list this year as the world’s highest-paid celebrity duo, raking in a staggering $78 million. But are they giving back?

Guardian columnist Tricia Rose wonders as much. She writes, “It is undeniable that today’s top black artists and celebrities have the greatest leverage, power, visibility and global influence of any period. It is also true that few speak openly, regularly and publicly on behalf of social justice. Most remain remarkably quiet about the conditions that the majority of black people face.”

Many celebrities often take on a non-controversial role or use their celebrity indirectly as a fundraising tool, rather than taking an overt stance to engage civically. Rose continues to say that her previous statement is not intended to, “discount their philanthropic efforts,” but to raise awareness. And Belafonte’s lament illuminates a fundamental shift in black popular culture.

“As black artists have gone mainstream, their traditional role has shifted. No longer the presumed cultural voice of the black collective social justice, it is now heavily embedded in mass cultural products controlled by the biggest conglomerates in the world,” says Rose.

FREEDOM FIGHTERS: Belafonte (center) with fellow actors Sidney Poitier (left) and Charlton Heston at the historic civil rights March on Washington, D.C., in 1963.

Rose notes that individuals like Belafonte willfully sacrificed their safety and lives by marching with civil rights protesters under threat of police violence. His commitment and contributions are rare among modern superstars.

She adds: “In the history of black culture popular music and art has played an extraordinary role in keeping the spirit alive under duress, challenging discrimination and writing the soundtrack to freedom movements.” Visionaries like Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, and Nina Simone are a few that Rose believes understood that responsibility and made a conscious effort to better society through both their art and fame.

As for Beyoncé, the singer’s representatives did respond to Belafonte’s charge by citing a litany of the singer’s charitable acts, including funding of inner-city outreaches in her hometown of Houston, as well as donations to hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast and humanitarian campaigns following the Haiti earthquake.

In fairness to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, it is not for any of us to judge how they use their money, nor to pressure them into being more generous than they already are. What’s more, the issues in today’s society are quite different than they were during the civil rights era. So, it might be unfair to impose those kinds of expectations on today’s African American celebrities.

Still, it’s hard not to feel that we do need more influential people with Belafonte’s mindset to help us reenergize the black community. His contributions over the course of his career have changed the world for the better and have proven that entertainers can be important difference makers for change and justice.

46 Years Later

46 Years LaterThis year, the significance of Martin Luther King Day is obviously magnified by the historic event that will take place the very next day, when Barack Obama takes the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States of America.
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