Four words, “I have a dream,” changed the course of history over 50 years ago and for many people in the community, it is a source of hope for the future.
"I have a dream are words" found in many history books during the Civil Rights era as Martin Luther King Jr. shared his vision of a world of equal opportunity. Reflecting on the Civil Rights movement and the efforts of King and many others, people in the community shared with the Star-Herald their thoughts on what the day means for them.
For Tishara Morehouse, a second-year student at Western Nebraska Community College, the holiday is empowering.
“It’s empowering and just reminds us African Americans, as a culture, what we’ve done,” she said.
Throughout her education, Morehouse said she remembers listening and watching the marches and speeches King was involved in and how he brought confidence into his community.
“I just hope people remember that peace equals winning,” she said.
For ninth grader Dakota McNeal, he has also seen the videos, but said it’s important for teachers to make the events relatable to students now.
“I know he gave a speech that he had a dream where black and white kids would go to school together and that’s why we don’t miss school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, even though it’s a holiday,” McNeal said. “The teachers do a good job of showing the speeches he gave, but they could do a better job of explaining the language in the videos.”
The Civil Rights movement was a significant time in America’s history and First Assembly of God Pastor LeRoy Wyre hopes young people appreciate what the older generations went through to get where we are today.
Wyre was born in 1961 and grew up surrounded by racism and prejudice, but his father experienced it firsthand.
“I was pretty young,” he said. “I remember just learning about the prejudice and racism, my father grew up in the south and he experienced it firsthand, but he didn’t allow those experiences to build any prejudices.”
Wyre added, “Growing up, I knew prejudice and racism, but it wasn’t at the level of Dr. King in his era, but I just see now these generations don’t quite appreciate what the people before them went through.”
Even though young people have only read about the Civil Rights movement, Wyre said they can learn from King’s words when he said, “You don’t judge a person by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
He also said they should be proud of where they came from and who they are.
“You need to work hard to achieve your goals and don’t blame others,” he said. “If you have God in your life, Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter how you started. You can end well and you can be a very productive member of society.”
Aside from experiencing racism, without the work of people like King, Isaiah Wilson, an employee at Valley Youth Connections, said he wouldn’t have his family.
“I’m from a multi-racial family and without the movement of the civil rights and things that Dr. King did, that wouldn’t have happened,” Wilson said. “That is extremely important to me.”
Wilson said the movement goes deeper than African American versus white people as it paved the way for all cultures to be successful.
“I think that everyone having the equal rights or equal ability to succeed is huge because that allows for things like black presidents or Mexican senators,” he said.
While the Civil Rights Movement brought change to America, Wilson hopes younger people understand racism isn’t going away. He experienced racism only one time in his life, during his time in Auburn, Nebraska, while looking for a job.
“I walked into a store looking for a job,” he said. “They didn’t let me into the bike shop, but I told them I was going in looking for a job. The lady was like ‘we don’t need you.’”
Despite his experience, Wilson said he wants the younger generation to understand that “There’s so much more to life than worrying about race and ethnicity. That’s the more important part of the civil rights movement.”