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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hope can make the dream take flight

 •  'Guru of joy' to visit Isles


By William Self

Disenfranchised means to be deprived of a legal right to do something or the privilege to participate.

Here we are in early April 2010 eons from April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He had a dream that all God's children would someday join hands brown, olive, red, white, and black, rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged as brothers and sisters.

He knew something about disenfranchisement and, of course, about faith in his dream.

When I attempted to explain to my grandson, Jaden, who MLK was, I told him that when I was his age 8 years old I wasn't allowed to swim in a public swimming pool because of my skin color. "Not!" he said. I had been disenfranchised. Of course, my grandson didn't believe me.

I took a different tack. I explained that his great-grandfather, who is 92 and a veteran of World War II D-Day, The Battle of the Bulge and the Korean War, had been disenfranchised, too. During the early 1940s, my grandfather and other people of color in Pine Bluff, Ark., had to step off the sidewalk whenever a white man came along and let him pass. Again, Jaden said: "Not!"

After telling Jaden details about MLK's life, I explained that he was shot dead at age 39 because he stood up when others would not, could not, refused or were too frightened to stand up for their civil rights. Jaden will grasp the weight of King's story when he is a bit older.

Somebody has to tell our youth where they came from, how they got where they are today, where they need to go, and how much faith it will take to get there.

Birth in a free society comes with the right to fully participate in the community in which we live. It is that right to belong that is the commitment of a democracy, the assurance of equal access and inclusion that promises its franchise to everyone. This was MLK's dream.

Hebrews 11:1 says: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is made out of what is not visible, and so was Martin Luther King's dream and, ultimately, his triumph of faith.

King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., but that did not stop countless Americans from continuing to embrace his dream and the nation's sweeping civil rights changes of the 1960s.

These days, disenfranchisement is often tied to matters more subtle than skin color.

There is a strip of tents and makeshift shelters along the Wai'anae coast. One could hardly call them houses. Nonetheless, these are home to a lot of people who have fallen on hard times. The ragtag, piecemeal living quarters are held together with rope and hope along a mile or so of that coastline.

The people living inside those tents are real. They should not be ignored or denied opportunities because of their struggles. They're good people, strong people, decent people, just like you and me. And I am absolutely certain that they have dreams and faith in a brighter tomorrow. I'll bet they dream of living in a home with a flushing toilet and a porch to sit on, a living-wage job and a dependable car.

When it comes to faith, I'm equally certain that some believe without question or limits.