Each and every year, on the day set aside to commemorate the life of Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr, the media, without pause, repetitively reminds us of these words from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech:
“…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character… I have a dream today!”
While this passage has become iconically recognizable, the significant part of the speech which gets the least media attention, and very little space in the history books, is that which speaks to righting the wrongs of the economic inequalities suffered by African Americans since emancipation from slavery, and also that which speaks to the aspirations for economic opportunity and development for African Americans. In Dr. King’s words:
“In a sense we have come to our Nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.”
As an African American business owner, while others take advantage of having MLK Day as a break from work to sleep late or to take advantage of post winter holiday sales, I am reminded of my commitment to do my part — even as small as it may seem — to create opportunities for sustained livelihood and economic growth; not solely for African Americans but for persons of every color, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. I have been fortunate enough to not only provide career paths for movement practitioners and support staff, but to develop leaders through mentorship, apprenticeship, and training in order to inspire and prepare them for entrepreneurial independence.
As one of only a handful of African American owners of Pilates studios, I endeavor to provide welcoming environments for individuals of all colors, body types, and gender identification to participate in movement that heals, restores, aligns and even energizes the mundanities of life. I merge the faith expressed in the words of Dr. King that “we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together…” with the declaration of Joseph Pilates that “…the whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.”
As we turn the calendar page for the 2022 celebration of MLK Day, let each of us commit or re-commit to doing our part to promulgate movement prosperity, justice, equality and love.