By Christina Stopka-Rinnert
The advent of the New Year provides another opportunity to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech. After reading the text of that great oratory, I find myself contemplating the freedoms for which I am grateful. At the top of the list, I am grateful for the freedom of enough.
Over a decade ago, it seemed that my kids and I might never have enough. We can now declare, “We have ENOUGH!” Enough food. Enough heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Enough money to pay our bills, to eat out occasionally, to buy groceries, and to get a few luxuries. Enough time to read good books, to discuss philosophy, and to cuddle.
We have precisely enough love, friendship, and family: commodities sorely lacking in our former life. Living with domestic violence, the three of us felt that we only had each other—starved for the love and camaraderie of friends, of family, of co-workers, and of classmates. Now, our proverbial cup overruns with encouragement, love, and positivity from those around us.
I am supremely grateful for freedom of speech. For a time I lived silently in my house, in my church, with my children, and with my family. My voice — my writing — ceased because we lived with someone who believed that all discussions began and ended with him. Eventually, we lost the joyful noises and the happiness of togetherness in our home. Now, I live in surrounded by the barking of three affectionate dogs, the giggles of teenagers, and the laughter of friends and family drinking wine around a holiday table overflowing with abundance. For all this, I am so thankful.I watch Dr. King’s speech and I read the text and am reminded how many people still live in the shadows.
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. And 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 self-hood 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.
Today, because of the help that we received from others, my kids and I are able to live life more fully than we ever dreamed was possible ten years ago. Because of a river of love, of justice, and of helpfulness that rolled over us in our time of need, we pursue our dreams. My heart still breaks because so many did not change at all since 1963.
People continue to die for no reason other than the color of their skin, their neighborhood, or that they are being oppressed by a system of privilege and racism that refuses to see their innocence first. Members of the LGBTQ community face continue to face discrimination when it comes to the most basic human rights.
When will I be satisfied? When everyone enjoys the same freedoms as my family and I do. Everyone. When people everywhere have enough: enough food, enough money, enough shelter, enough clean water, enough healthy food, enough safety, and enough love. That’s when I will be satisfied.