The symbolic show of remembrance of Dr. King once again overshadowed the spirit of the movement, leaving countless people wondering if King’s message will ever reach their needs. While Americans across the nation celebrated the birth of the man whose message of peace ended the last legal strains of racial bondage in this country, the shackles of homelessness still remains hidden from view with a nation remaining persistently oblivious to the crisis.
Where I live in Ann Arbor, large groups filed into Hill Auditorium to participate in Dr. King ceremony events. Church and school buses unloaded and ticket holders came from every direction towards the building. Yet, people from all races, nationalities, and economic strata passed up the offer to purchase the “street paper,” perhaps the only viable means of authentic engagement with members of the homeless community. As I sold Ann Arbor’s Groundcover News, only a handful of people headed toward the auditorium recognized my plight. The rest passed by, ignoring, staring intentionally into the distance.
The name of the paper, Groundcover News, is indicative of its purpose and message. At closer look it reads, “News and solutions from the ground up”, which reveals its goal of empowering individuals with a business in which to work our way out of the plight we are presently facing. It is to provide those who are literally and figuratively on the ground a means to re-enter society in a dignified, self -sufficient manner. Like a hundred street papers around the world in different cities, The Groundcover News seeks to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between those who have lost everything and those who are in homes.
So while the Dr. King Day celebrations were in full swing, I was disheartened that Millennials strode past me with the same indifference as their older counterparts, signaling no change in the perception of homelessness in the upcoming generation.The dichotomy is glaring. Within blocks of the auditorium where people were walking to celebrate and remember a man of peace there were people who live their daily lives on the periphery, barely maintaining adequate means to survive. While Dr. King promoted peace, we are still living in a country where thousands of Americans suffer from what has been called the violence of hunger.
It seems as though the spirit of the movement has receded further and further into the distance where symbolism has supplanted genuine concern for our suffering neighbors. Yet the pattern of people walking by those who are suffering on the streets seems to be embedded into our landscape with the entrenchment of thousands seeing no end in sight.
For example in politics, neither Democrats nor Republicans had it on their political agendas. While Trump spoke of the need to end veteran homelessness and won the veteran vote 2-1, Hilary Clinton seemed out of the loop and did nothing to appeal to voters suffering from this
crisis. As it stands now, no funding has sufficiently provided enough emergency shelter which is the most dire need to a person experiencing homelessness.
So, living in the midst of a crisis, we can no longer afford to limit our remembrances of Dr. King to symbolic ceremonies. I am confident that if Dr. King were alive today that rather than rest on his laurels, he would join forces with the current day Nobel laureates who this past year expressed their sentiment on world hunger by making a unified statement that:“Peace is impossible without food security, and there will be no food security without peace.”
So it is my dream that by the time Dr, King holiday is celebrated this time next year, that we will have moved closer to bridging the gap between those who enjoy society housing security with all of its benefits to those who have no place to call home. That society will recognize that while we celebrate the victory of desegregation, that our work is far from over. The anthem of “We Shall Overcome” is timeless and it is time that we apply to the present day crisis of homelessness.