Yolanda King believes she knows why her father's dream for America is not yet a reality.
"It isn't about black vs. white -- those ethnic divisions are just used to pit people against each other," said the 35-year-old daughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. during a speaking engagement in Harford County last week.
"It is about greed, and a perverted need to be No. 1 no matter who you have to step over to get there. Racism and sexism are just symptoms of the problem."
As part of Harford Community College's celebration of Black History Month, King, in an eloquent, lyrical style reminiscent of her father's speeches and writings, addressed an audience of about 200 people Wednesday night. She opened her speech by quoting from the poem "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes.
"Some people think that's my father's only speech, you know," she said, referring to the often-quoted "I have a dream" speech.
"But please remember that in 1968 before he died, my father was dreaming of marching onWashington again. That was his last dream, to actively organize poorwhites in Appalachia, and blacks, and working with so many of us whoare locked out of the system. Perhaps you will understand now why the bullet came and where it came from."
Yolanda King believes little progress has been made in civil rights since the famous 1954 to 1968 period with the exception of symbolic victories, such as the fact that black women have been selected as Miss America.
Part of the reason, King said, is that blacks who took advantage of the gains madein civil rights moved into the mainstream of society "without ever looking back."
In addition, economic problems and crimes of violence have a disproportionate effect on blacks, said King, noting that one-quarter of all black males are caught up in some phase of the judicial process.
"It's not because of an inherent criminality but because the opportunities are not there for them," she said.
"The magnificent dream pursued by my father is still a dream. I choose to continue to dream and to act on my dreams. To live without that dream would be a nightmare."
King urged blacks to begin work in their communities to educate and support black youths and those youths identified as "at risk" of falling through the cracks in the educational system.
"If higher education is really serious about creating a societywhere blacks and whites and others can live and work together, everystudent who comes through
these doors should be required to take onecourse in ethnic studies," King said. "We've got to stop doing safe programs like scholarship programs. We can do something to make a difference."
After her speech, King explained why she has tried to continue the work her father started.
"When you grow up in an environment where you see and are exposed to sincere and genuine caring andconcern for the community -- not something that's just talked about,but is lived -- you grow up with a belief that you could make a change for the better."
King said the biggest challenge facing blacks is that they must continue to pressure and raise the consciousness of others to convince them that change begins with education.
"We're not even doing a good job of teaching people to make a living. Howare we going to teach people, whites and people of color, that they have to live and work with each other?" King said. "We have plenty ofmoney to engage in the Persian Gulf crisis, but where will we find enough money to make sure education continues?"
George Lisby, one of three members of Harford County's Board of Education who attended the lecture, said he concurred with King that much work must still be done in the area of civil rights.
"This is where the black churches, black fraternities and sororities and other organizations can cometogether," he said. "We have a lot of work to do at the community level."