I had a vision of seeing a float representing the African-American community in Martin Luther King Jr. County in this year's Torchlight Parade. The time it takes to raise the necessary capital will not allow it to happen this year. But this is only the beginning of this battle.
I would also like to see us create a first-class pageant, with contestants for the Seafair Queen contest and an ongoing financial commitment to build the African American Cultural and Arts Center. Fortunately, some other people want to do something similar, and we are finding each other.
Something even bigger
The float is just one of a few pieces of something much larger that I would like to see happen. I have a personal vision of Seattle and Martin Luther King Jr. County being the home of the Martin Luther King Jr. Institute of Social Change. I would like it to be a think tank of sorts, where we can solve some of the urban problems of our times and for the future.
We are blessed to have the only county in the nation bearing the name of an African American (Martin Luther King Jr. County). But we are equally blessed with having The Gates Foundation with billions of dollars at its disposal, calling our city its home.
Why not make Seattle the place where we began to develop and test the ideas that can alleviate the problems in many poor inner city and rural communities?
Now all we are missing is the will to put these things together and make them work.
I see the Martin Luther King Jr. Institute as being a place where new leaders come from all over the country to observe and learn from the failures and successes of the urban and rural experiments we are doing in Martin Luther King Jr. County.
Make this the mountaintop for innovative ideas and solutions because you will not find another city with our key elements: a well-educated population that is the most racially diverse in the nation, a manageable ghetto environment and a low level of urban crime and violence.
We also have people from all over the nation who have witnessed or been a victim of the failures in other cities and can use their collective wisdom to create a new urban and low income environment.
What am I talking about? Imagine an urban environment where the African-American and low-income children average a 2.7 grade-point average or better, our dropout rate was less than 5 percent, our prison rate was cut by 75 percent and our employment rate was down below 10 percent. Where our elderly can live a life of economic and physical security and where our parks and playfields are a place to play rather than an urban battle field.
If you can imagine an urban environment where most of the African-American families own their homes and are not embarrassed to fly an American flag because they feel they are part of the very fabric of this nation, you have seen the political, social and economical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Change in America normally is pushed by the people who are most affected by things being the way they are. If they are being harmed they are the ones who need to fix it because it's their pain they need to stop. African Americans are in pain, and we are the ones who need to develop the vision of the kind of society we need to live in, play in and die in.
Our vision, like King's dream, must be articulated in a way that moves the nation to act, but we must act on that vision ourselves first.
If we take this county and began to shape it around the hopes and dreams of its namesake we will become the leaders in America of a new urban vision. Take the urban blight and create innovative urban economic villages, and take hopelessness and replace it with hope.
I believe that it can happen first in Martin Luther King Jr. County, and everything we do should be aimed at creating that new urban vision.
We live in the Emerald City, so let's build a yellow brick road to the place where a new urban reality is being created. We need an urban template to be the model for the rest of the nation; why not here, why not now?
We have a president who needs someone to create something that works in a nation exhausted from the crime and poverty that the old models have created.
We may fail to accomplish some of our goals, but we should never fail at trying.
Charlie James has been an African-American community activist/writer for more than 35 years.[[In-content Ad]]