MLK’s Dream for Las Vegas and the Rest of His Country.
When the great pastor of The Civil Rights Movement gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech 50 years ago in Washington DC, Las Vegas was not only 2494 miles away from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but also thousands of miles away from the top step of his Dream.
Vegas Casinos were open to popular white and black entertainers but many Vegas hotels and restaurants were closed to the African American entertainers that performed there. Most people of color in Las Vegas were clumped together in the poorest neighborhoods of the city, where crime was rampant, police brutality was cruel, and frustration was creating a tinder box for an explosion of violence.
And many of those neighborhoods did explode in 1968 and in the early 1970s.
We’ve come a long way since those days, and there have been race riots in Las Vegas since MLK’s marvelous speech. Oh, and there is still anger today, and prejudice, and injustice, even though it is now illegal to deny anyone residence or service because of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation, and discrimination is frowned upon, at least publicly.
Rodney King Verdict Frustration Shakes Las Vegas
In 1992 a jury in Los Angeles set free 4 officers who were accused of a felony assault on Rodney King. The aftershock not only tore apart Califorina cities, but it also shook Las Vegas
Las Vegas’s newspaper of record, The Review Journal reported
“Violence also erupted in Las Vegas, specifically, West Las Vegas, a historically black neighborhood.
Some residents began looting businesses, then setting them on fire. Apartments and a police substation were torched. People threw rocks, broke windows, beat bystanders, and shot guns in the air and at police.
Police cordoned off 11 square miles to keep the violence from spreading. It got so intense at times that firefighters wouldn't enter the neighborhood to put out flames. One person was killed and 37 were injured, including a police officer shot in the leg. The fires caused an estimated $6 million in damage. For several days afterward, sporadic violence tormented the area. By the end of the week, 111 people had been arrested in connection with the Las Vegas riots.”
The Evidence Still With Us
The evidence of those riots can still be seen in some places in Las Vegas, marked by rows of small cement squares that were once foundations for dozens of homes, and still in the hearts of some of the residents of the city.
The Great Words Still Ring
But the great pastor’s words still ring in our ears. Here are some of the most vivid scenes from his dream, delivered after warning:
“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
1. “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. Its is a dream rooted in the American dream.”
2. “…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
3. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
4. “…the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
5. “…a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”
6. “…little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”
7. “…that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
8. “…we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the word of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”