Last month, Consumers Energy Attorney Chantez Knowles was invited to participate in Jackson College’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Forum. In honor of Black History Month, we are sharing her perspective on the forum topic of progress since Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Chantez also received the honor of being recognized as one of Jackson’s 30 and Under in Jackson Magazine for her significant impact on our community.
“Overall, a lot of progress has been made since Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but there are still many racial disparities that persist today. When we look at the numbers since Dr. King’s speech, we are seeing gaps continually become narrower in a few categories, such as high school completion rates and life expectancy. In other areas like home ownership and living above the poverty line, there has been little change. What is more unfortunate is that some disparities have widened in areas such as college completion, median household income and incarceration rates.
We have also seen progress in the cultural realm of our nation, for example the election of President Barack Obama, but there is still more work to be done to gain further equality and inclusion for not only black people but of all groups. When I think about Dr. King’s speech being made during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I also think about how unemployment and justice in the legal system are still universal issues that cross color lines and affect people of various backgrounds and socioeconomic status.
I believe Dr. King’s dream of equality can be achieved if individuals treat others the way they want to be treated, learn to respect/appreciate the differences of others and learn how to work together for the collective good. We can all play a part in making a positive impact in society, whether volunteering with an advocacy group, donating money to worthy causes or just making an informed vote. Many different community groups and leaders are trying to find solutions to continued inequities and need your help.
As our nation and the market continues to become more diverse, it is important that we continue our focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace which can have a positive impact on our creativity and productivity; therefore, fostering a better business for our employees, contractors, customers and investors.
Black History Month is a time to acknowledge the impact and legacy of influential black people such as Dr. King. It is also a time to reflect on cultural diversity within history and learn from the experiences of the past to help guide us toward a more promising future. When we think about the Civil Rights Movement, we can take note of the power of unity among the various ethnic groups for the common goal of equality as a guide for our continual quest for Dr. King’s dream.”