As we observe the national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and as we see in the film Selma some of the struggles he faced and eventually overcame, I am reminded of one of the songs we sang during our marches and rallies in the days of the Civil Rights Movement; "Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on."
When the struggle was about desegregation of public accommodations or the struggle to attain voting rights in the states of the former Confederacy, nothing came easily. There was struggle, danger, sacrifice, and in too many instance including Dr. King himself, there was death.
Through all of that there were really two songs that encouraged us along the way. One was "We shall overcome" and the other one was a companion to the first; until we finally do overcome we will need to keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!
I think about that today as I ponder the findings of the Rochester Area Community Foundation about childhood poverty and third-grade reading and math levels in the city of Rochester. Our city leads the entire nation among cities of similar size in the category of extreme poverty which is defined as a family of four living on an annual income of less than $12,000.
There will be people who may read this blog who earn $12,000 or more each month. It will be hard for them to comprehend turning their monthly income into their family income for an entire year.
If you add present rates of extreme poverty to the fact that only 6.8 % of Rochester City School District are proficient in reading and the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the prospects for generational poverty already seem to be in place.
Of course, these trends could be reversed and/or reduced. Of course, all of these things could be reduced or reversed. If only we as a region and as a nation could commit to a reasonable minimum wage, affordable housing that is no longer limited just to the city limits of Rochester, investment in pre-natal care that benefits both parents and children, the end of mass incarceration for non-violent drug offenses that greatly reduce an ex-offender's chance of every escaping poverty, working on all fronts to shape a functional and accountable public school system, and a few other policy changes that are well within our reach.
These challenges are formidable, and they will not easily be achieved. They will likely require changes in racial attitudes as well as in public policies. However, they are not more formidable than ending segregation, or establishing voting rights unobstructed by poll taxes or literary tests or the capricious behavior of whites who did everything in their power to prevent African Americans from voting for 100 years after the abolition of slavery in 1865.
If our nation could overcome those challenges, then surely we can overcome the challenges that we face both nationally and locally. All we will have to do is keep our eyes on the prize and hold on!
Please click this link to view, comment on or share Dr. McMickle's post: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/unite/2015/01/15/keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize-hold-on/21837911/