Reflecting on King’s dream

by Lucas High
published January 20, 2015
Wyoming Tribune Eagle

C.J. Brown, 66, attended Monday’s march through Cheyenne with his daughter and grandson and says it’s important to keep King’s legacy alive for younger generations

Isis Manuel, 6, sits in her mother Tanisha’s lap as they listen to Rita Watson speak during a Martin Luther King Day march and rally on the steps of the Capitol Monday afternoon. Over 300 hundred people took part in the celebration for the civil rights leader. Michael Smith/staff

“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.”

– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously hoped for a brighter future for American children of all races, and C.J. Brown’s family is proof that the spirit of King’s dream is alive and well in the Capital City.

Three generations of Brown’s family – including his daughter, Kim Brown, and grandson Xavier Puls – joined hundreds of others Monday to honor King with a march through downtown.

“It’s important for me, someone who was there and remembers the civil rights era, to be able to share this march with my family, with the younger generations,” said Brown, 66, a former member of the Cheyenne City Council.

“We have come a long way, but my fear is that our young people will forget about the struggle because they never really lived it. They inherited the opportunity to live in a world where blacks and white are together,” he said.

“I saw the civil rights struggle firsthand. (Kim) saw part of it, but she missed a lot of the pain of suffering. And (Xavier) has experienced it through the stories and the history. That’s why these marches are so important. If we fail to march and to keep this history and these stories alive, we will just go back to the old comfortable camps of whites with whites and blacks with blacks.”

Kim, 38, said, “I can honestly say there has been progress. I know when I was coming up, when I was (Xavier’s) age, it was very explicit that white was white and black was black and Mexican was Mexican. There was quite a bit of division.

“Living in Cheyenne all of my life, I’ve dealt with the good and the bad. But each year it’s gotten better. I’ll always be grateful for the equality that we can enjoy now. Martin Luther King and our civil rights leaders have sacrificed to allow for us to have the liberties that we have now.”

Kim said that during her lifetime, society has become much more accepting of interracial relationships and marriages, pointing to her 12-year-old multiracial son, Xavier, as evidence.

“When I was growing up, there were a lot of people that were taught to stick with their own (race), and that’s just the way it is. But there were others that were taught that there is a rainbow out there for a reason, and you have the right and the privilege to explore that rainbow now.”

Xavier credits the men and women of the civil rights era with making the society his generation inhabits a more accepting one.

“When Martin Luther King came, he changed everything. He made everything better,” he said. “He’s our savior. He brought all of us together so we don’t have to fight anymore.”

But Xavier accepts that not everything is perfect, and King’s dream of a country where the color of a child’s skin is irrelevant has yet to fully materialize.

“People will bring up my (multiracial background) at school, and I really don’t like it. There are a few kids at school that will tease me about what I am, what my color is. But I just try to ignore them.”

C.J. Brown said that while racial inequality and bigotry still exist, the most important issue isn’t white versus black, it’s rich versus poor.

“The real battle we face now is economic. There is still a struggle,” he said. “Whether you are black or white or from the (Native American) reservation, the struggle now is making sure you can make a living and provide a future for your kids.”

The speakers who addressed the crowd of more than 300 after Monday’s march from the Cheyenne Depot to the State Capitol echoed this sentiment.

“Dr. King died fighting the structures that hold people in poverty. Today, more people than ever have fallen below that (poverty) line, and income inequality is at record highs,” said the Rev. Audette Fulbright, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cheyenne.

Sergio Maldonado, a representative of the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming, said the country is still struggling with economically “marginalized communities” of all races.

“Today, we have poor in America, and we have poor in Wyoming, and we have poor on the Wind River Indian Reservation,” he said. “But I believe we have ample room to grow and to make that better.”

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