Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fulfilling King's dream requires effort, unity

Calvin Butts, pastor of New York's Abyssinian Baptist Church and president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, delivered a sterling speech Monday at the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs' annual Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Breakfast.

Reflecting his belief in education and faith, Butts' address was both scholarly and theological. He quoted prophets, politicians, poets and even Stevie Wonder.

By the time he finished, Butts had blessed the diverse audience of more than 800 with pearls of wisdom for every race and ethnicity as he underscored the theme of "Remembering the Dream, Delivering the Promise."

The most lustrous of those pearls was a call for Tampa Bay residents to engage in the political process. Butts warned that the community must grow weary of "politicians who promise a lot and give nothing."

He pushed people to care not only about presidential races, but also every contest from city and county elections to state and congressional battles.

"If you believe in the dream, it doesn't matter whether you're black or white," Butts said. "What matters is that you join together and hold political leadership accountable."

Yet we live in a city where the African-American community is increasingly apathetic about local politics. Privately, political consultants are already saying the black vote doesn't matter unless it's a presidential race.

It's well-documented that the predominantly white enclaves of South Tampa play the biggest role in deciding Tampa elections, and it's naive to believe that doesn't determine which neighborhoods get the most attention from public officials.

If African-Americans in the pockets of east Tampa, West Tampa and Sulphur Springs don't get involved, we will go from politicians who promise a lot to politicians who promise nothing. If suburban African-Americans don't reach back and call for change in the inner city, it will never happen.

It's simply not enough to have singular black representatives on the City Council, the County Commission and the School Board. Accountability may begin with them, but it must extend to every elected official. And it can — through collaboration.

Go back to Butts' quote. Your race doesn't matter.

People in Hyde Park who believe in the dream must demand change in West Tampa.

The active participants of Seminole Heights must challenge officials to help the impoverished in east Tampa.

Everybody in New Tampa and Temple Terrace needs to ask for improvements in the university area, unless they believe it's a good idea to have the University of South Florida next to one of the region's most crime-ridden neighborhoods.

It's this universal approach that constitutes the dream. As Butts so eloquently noted, King simply articulated what God had been trying to say to the world for centuries when he stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and called for America to truly be the nation where all men are created equal.

"It is not a dream that's particular to any racial group," Butts said. "It is not a dream that's particular to any religious group; it is not a dream that's particular to any ethnic group."

We hear so much about "Get Out the Vote," but in 2014, it needs to be get out the newspaper, get out the computer, get informed and — most importantly — get together. Turn the dream on.

That's all I'm saying.

Fulfilling King's dream requires effort, unity 01/20/14 [Last modified: Monday, January 20, 2014 11:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tributes pour in for ex-national security adviser Brzezinski


    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  2. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  3. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  4. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  5. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)