For many of today’s youth, particularly those in the African American community, the future is grim, said Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Unemployment is high, the public education system is failing and there is a high number of teens under criminal supervision, said Glaude, chair of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University
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“They have a lot in front of them,” Glaude said. “They need to muster the courage and creative imagination to speak to those problems forcefully and in a compelling way.”
Glaude hopes to use Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy to inspire them to do just that.
He will be the luncheon speaker at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City’s youth workshop on Friday at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center as part of the organization’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
Glaude was selected to give the speech because of his work on African American history, specifically in regard to King, said Arlana Coleman, event planner for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City.
“He really is one of the younger thinkers of our time concerning political issues and where our young people should be going,” Coleman said.
Glaude, 43, graduated from Moorehouse College in Atlanta with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1989. He earned his doctorate in religion from Princeton in 1996.
He has titled the talk he will give “A Restless Sleep after King’s Dream.”
“Really what I want to do is kind of prod and provoke the young folk to really think about the implications of King’s legacy and sacrifice,” he said.
“Often times we tend to think of Dr. King’s dream in terms of the 1963 march on Washington — the kind of voicing of the colorblind America.”
That is not only an admirable goal, Glaude said it is right and just. But King also was talking about fundamental structural inequalities.
Glaude wants to talk to the students about King’s legacy post-1963 to get them to think about the figure who was organizing garbage workers, who wrote in 1968 about where do we go from here and who was looking at the evils of militarism, racism and economic exploitation of people.
“Part of this has to do with making Dr. King’s dream relevant to the circumstances of today so that these young people can understand how his message speaks to them — not as some figure who is lodged in the past,” Glaude said.
The future is grim for many youth when you consider the high unemployment rates, especially among teenaged African-Americans.
He also said the public education system is failing.
“The prison industrial complex and its relation to the failure of public education and the kind of constricting labor markets, we know that what lies ahead will be challenges,” Glaude said.
“When we talk about the basic quality of life indices — from work to health to education — we are lagging behind,” he said.
“When we live in an environment where people are so mean-spirited, when the idea of the public good has been thrown into the trash bin, and when the notion of a beloved community has been castigated, it is a moment in which our young folk, like the young folk of old, have to begin to imagine themselves in the much grander terms in order to speak the grandness of the problems that they face.”
Glaude believes he can inspire the youth to do that by using King as an example, rendering him as a living figure.
“They don’t have to become sycophants to the past,” he said. “They have to understand their voice and find the uniqueness to their voice but they also need to understand that the past offers resources … to help them find the language and the means to really respond to the difficulties of our day.”