Tampa Bay perspective: 50 years later is MLK's dream fulfilled?

7:13 PM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
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Video: 50 years later is MLK's dream fulfilled?

"I've had a great life," says 78 year-old Delano Stewart who is the longest-serving African American lawyer in Tampa. Stewart was there -- in Washington -- in 1963.
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Tampa, FL -- So, 50 years later is the dream fulfilled, or is it still just a dream? There is no question that we have made strides in the past five decades, but a dream is never fulfilled until it's realized.

For those who struggled through the civil rights period, we live in world where, comparatively, the possibilities are endless. But for a younger generation, expectations in some cases, have not yet been met.

For example, consider what an impact Dr. King's speech has had on Delano Stewart's life. Now the longest-serving African American lawyer in Tampa, Stewart was there -- in Washington -- in 1963.

"I've had a great life," says the 78 year-old.

Inspired and driven, Stewart has used his success to battle social injustices which has allowed others to live that same dream.

"It was a day I will never forget," he says. "And if you were short on inspiration you could reach back down in your soul -- pull that up -- and move on."

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George Smith, 46, who manages a Tampa Barber shop just a block from Tampa's housing projects, sees a dream still in progress.

"Equality? We haven't come close to equality yet," said Smith.

Smith points to great strides, not the least of which, he says, is the election of President Obama. But there is also great disappointment. As recent, he says, as the Travon Martin case.

"I live in the real world. In the real world we just had a young man killed last year and the guy's still walking around the streets buying guns," said Smith.

"We've come a long way, and there's miles to go before we sleep," said Nigel Watson, a civil rights champion for more than three decades.

Watson says things are better today than they were 50 years ago, but that black people are still disproportionately imprisoned, denied business opportunities, and remain the target of voter suppression.

Policy changes led to longer lines in Florida just this past year, with fewer polling places and fewer days to vote including Sundays.

"Who else goes to church and then goes from church to vote?" asked Watson. "Black people. It's not rocket science. And they know perfectly well what they're doing," he said.

Civil Rights aren't just achieved, says Watson, they have to be guarded. Social injustice, he says, still exists -- increasingly on an economic level affecting poorer people, regardless of skin color.

That, he believes, would have disappointed Dr. King, who urged us to judge people by the content of their character.

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