It’s been more than 43 years since the man who made the words “I have a dream” immortal was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee. King would have turned 83 yesterday had he lived and surely would have had an intriguing perspective to offer on how African-Americans have progressed and are treated in today’s United States of America.
We caught up with some members of the Miami Dolphins family to find out what MLK Day means to them and to their friends and families:
Hall-of-Famer Dwight Stephenson – “He’s absolutely been a big influence on me all my life and the people I’ve been around and the things that he stood for. I think he made the whole world and especially the United States a better place to live. There’s definitely more to the holiday than just being a day off. Today when I see people I wish them a Happy Martin Luther King’s Birthday because not everyone knows really what he’s done and what he did for the world, especially for this country here. He made a huge sacrifice and I think he put into words what probably a lot of us feel so we can kind of see it. The way he spoke was almost to me like looking at a picture and he helped us in many, many ways.”
Derrick Rodgers – “I’m old enough to know what the world was like before and I saw examples of prejudice and you understand that there’s a greater good out there and someone was willing to give so much of their time for everyone’s benefit. It was a selfless act for someone to make a decision to sacrifice his family and his life in order for all of us to be able to have a better life. When you see something like that it gives you something to reach for and model yourself after and to strive for to be a better person because you understand there is some good in us.
“It’s good that we’ve gotten to this point to where you look from the outside and how everything’s changed, but it’s also important to reiterate what he was fighting for and the reason why he was fighting. Because I see, especially in the black community, a lot of young men who don’t have a cause in their life. Back in the 70s there was a cause. My parents were fighting for their education because they knew that the education would allow them to have better things and a better quality of living. Nowadays you see a lot of young guys without a cause because there isn’t outward prejudice going on so they don’t have anything to strive for and a lot of times it zaps their initiative.
“So I appreciate it because I come from a background where I’ve seen it and I understand that you have to push yourself and strive to do better in your life. But I wish a lot of young black people and white people could have experienced it because I think that period of time, just like 9/11, after that happened you saw a lot of people trying to do more to make it a better place. We have to live here together and it amazes me that when we come together how much we can accomplish. But we have so many holes in our community and we’re so distant in this way and that way and have so many other things impeding us from just being all that we were made to be and I see it like that.”
Keith Sims – “Well for me it’s just something that my parents, before it became a national holiday, they allowed us to stay home and my mom was pretty emphatic about it was a day where we honored him and what he stood for and what he meant to this country and to us as African-Americans. For us it’s just a tremendous day to reflect.
"My mom just turned 71 last week and I recently went with her to the MLK Museum in Atlanta, which is where she lives now. I went with my kids to sit there and see that and go through that museum with her and my wife’s mother last summer. And to have them look at different pieces of memories and recount the places that they had been a part of that history and some of those marches they had been part of was great. It’s an unbelievable day for us to reflect on how far we’ve come as African-Americans but also on how far we still have to go.”
Troy Drayton – “I think it just means equality and that’s really what Martin Luther King was fighting for. When you go to school and you look at your every day life you look at how it’s integrated. You have to think about all of the people who were standing on the front lines in those marches and all of those people who were discriminated against for us to get to the point where we’re at today.
“Martin Luther King, he symbolizes equality and freedom and that’s why we have such a great mix today. That’s why the schools are integrated, that’s why there’s no more segregation and it’s just a constant reminder of how far we’ve come number one and how far we have to go as well. It says that we all pretty much have the same blood and everybody’s the same.”