Breaking Barriers: Dr. King’s Speech Lives In Me

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

by Vilissa Thompson

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was a pivotal moment for the Civil Rights Movement, and has influenced generations long after that historical moment on the National Mall.  To watch videos and view photographs from that day and to hear his strong voice declare the dream he had for this country truly sends chills down one’s spine.  Dr. King was a masterful speaker, and that speech solidified his importance to not only civil rights, but being considered a leader throughout the world because his message was universal to all.

Growing up post-Civil Rights Movement era, I learned from an early age how significant Dr. King’s legacy was to not only African Americans, but to all Americans who fought tirelessly to ensure that all people had the same basic human rights.  Dr. King’s speech showed us that it’s okay to dream of a world that may not exist at that moment.  During that time, African Americans, women, people with disabilities, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and the poor were fighting for a place at the table of equality when they’ve been historically denied, discriminated against, and mistreated because of what and who they were.

Dr. King’s speech told us that dreaming is the way for us to envision a world that, if we work together, can become reality.  Dr. King’s speech was for equal rights and opportunities of everyone; to be judged by the content of your character and not from what made you different from your neighbor or the majority.  Though Dr. King did not his dream take form during his lifetime, we have been fortunate to experience his dream 50 years later.  Though there still remains a long path for us to travel for all to be judged by our character alone, the fact that Dr. King’s speech helped us to begin on that path is undeniable.

Dr. King’s speech lives in me as I make my way to fight for equal opportunities and justice for people with disabilities in America and abroad.  Being a triple minority – African American, female, and disabled – I know that there are obstacles in my path because of the prejudices that some hold about the groups I’m a member of.  Being aware of those prejudices doesn’t make me anger; it makes me proactive and passionate about spearheading change.

I’m proactive about getting the voices of minorities and women with disabilities into the consciousness of society.

I’m proactive about being politically active so that I can demand that those who serve as politicians hear the voices of the voiceless in our society.

I’m passionate about shattering glass ceilings of what disability looks like by pursuing my education, being an entrepreneur, being politically involved, being an aspiring children’s picture book author, and ensuring that my voice and experiences are heard and respected.

I’m passionate about being a leader and history maker, and not being viewed as a victim because I’m disabled.  I’m only a victim if I believe that’s what I am.  I want to urge others to view themselves as powerful and as victors because no one can take away your importance or power without your permission.

Needless to say, Dr. King’s dream resonates deeply within me and the work that I set forth to do.  How does Dr. King’s dream live within you?  I would love to hear your own accounts of what today’s remembrance of the speech and march on Washington means to you and your dreams.

Vilissa Thompson is a macro-minded social worker from South Carolina. Ramp Your Voice! is her organization where she discusses the issues that matters to her as a Black disabled woman, including intersectionality, racism, politics, and why she unapologetically makes good trouble.
Twitter: @VilissaThompson, @RampYourVoice, & @WheelDealPod


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