Martin Luther King III speaks at Waco town meetingJuly 14, 2009
"Realizing the Dream" is the non-profit organization founded by the son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., an organization that travels to communities, going on listening tours in areas where poverty is the greatest, and bringing together community leaders to talk to constituents about concerns they might have. They're currently in Waco, wrapping up 3 days of work here in Central Texas. It started with a tour of Marlin on Tuesday and continued yesterday with its most visible events, a walking tour of East Waco and a Town Hall meeting featuring King.
Addressing an overflow crowd outdoors along Waco Drive, King implored the attendees to take personal responsibility for improving their community.
The namesake of the slain civil rights leader spoke of how his father worked to eradicate racism, poverty, and militarism. King said that while we've made good strides on race, there's been very little change in the area of poverty, but encouraged those in attendance that change is possible.
Realizing the Dream conducted one of their trademark listening and learning tours in East Waco, visiting with residents in the Estella Maxey Homes. Leslyn Wong, a coordinator for Realizing the Dream, said they ask open-ended questions to get beyond raw numbers, such as how members feel about their community, what they like, and what needs to change. Wong found that, initially, residents said they had some mistrust of authorities, and expressed a strong desire for activities to keep young people out of trouble.
One resident of East Waco who did not wish to be identified, said she knows exactly what that lack of options can lead to.
Both were issues addressed in the town hall meeting, which featured local officials in addition to King. Other major topics included the breakdown of the family unit, the need for employment, and questions about how individuals and organizations can get beyond talking about things to accomplishing them. King repeatedly touting the vitality of working together. Tracy Cousins, executive director of the McLennan County Abstinence Project agreed, saying so many organizations touch on poverty, they should find ways to combat it together.
Hope for the future was inescapable at the events, but the realities of a city where approximately 20% live in poverty cannot be overlooked, as Martin Luther King III put bluntly.
King will speak in Marlin at the Coach Carter Academy this morning at 10:30; "Realizing the Dream" will formulate their findings this week into a tangible report to be sent to city and community leaders with plans of actions to combat poverty.