By LESLIE DAUGS | Bremerton City Council member
Fifty-five years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his speech “I Have a Dream” in Washington D.C.
When he spoke eloquently before 250,000 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I was just one year old. His speech was one of the most inspirational ever given by an American. It included references to the Emancipation Proclamation and freedom and justice for the African-American population.
Today, 55 years later, I revisited his historical speech and compared his words to today’s reality. The questions I wish to ask: “Are we free?” “Does freedom still exist?” “Have we moved forward?”
At times, I see progress in the fight for civil rights, equality, freedom, injustice and women’s rights. That was so true when we elected Barack Obama as president in 2008 and watched as he made changes that moved our society forward.
Upon reflection, I must sadly conclude that our freedom is on questionable grounds today. Our Constitutional rights are under attack as never before. We are in a constant fight to ensure that all people are treated equally. We are fighting each day to ensure our civil rights are being met.
Our LGBTQ community is battling daily to be treated equally and fairly. Females (and males) are vigilantly on watch so that women’s rights are not being jeopardized.
If we need to constantly struggle so that each person has a chance to speak up and be treated equally and fairly, then how can we say we have moved forward and have made progress? White supremacist groups are growing in America and abroad, and a number of those involved in government are advocating divisive and racist policies that would turn back the calendar to a time when we were less free and less equal.
One hundred fifty-four years ago, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. In 1963 — 55 years ago — Dr. King gave his stirring speech in Washington, D.C. Both of these events prefaced monumental changes that took place in our society that ensured a better, more equitable life.
Who doesn’t want a better life? It’s worth noting that freedom and equality don’t come to us freely. It must be fought for every day. Unfortunately, progress in those areas is minimal at best. But I am hopeful. Just like another champion of freedom and equality — President Lincoln — Dr. King continued to fight for those changes by standing up for what is fair and right by speaking up and risking his life.
I see people around me continuing to fight the fight, standing up and speaking about injustice, marching in the streets for a cause, rallying, getting arrested, running for office, and working daily to preserve the rights we have — or hope one day to have.
I, too, will continue to speak up, march, rally, get arrested and work daily to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equally. Why do I fight this fight? Because people like me are being jeopardized. I am a child of immigrant parents. I am a person of color. I am a female. I am part of the middle class. I have family members who are LGBTQ. My friends and family include a wide range of ethnicities.
My family, my children and our future generations need to have a place to live where they will not encounter discrimination and will be treated fairly and equally. Until we see this in our world — in Kitsap County, the United States and globally — the fight is not over.
— Leslie Daugs represents District 2 on the Bremerton City Council. She has been a longtime advocate for the rights of people underserved in the community.