May 02, 2007
12-Year-Old Charlotte's Speech
Last week I was in Canada campaigning for the Dalits and met up with some close friends of mine, a family I have known for many years. I am constantly amazed as to how in the providence of God so many are becoming a voice for the Dalits all over the world.
So when I met Charlotte, who is only 12 years old and the youngest in the family, and found out that she won a prize for a school speech in an elocution competition, I very much wanted to see it because she had spoken about the Dalits. One look at the speech and I knew that this was a first rate speech by my young friend Charlotte. That evening when I was speaking to a group of leaders, I invited Charlotte to give us the speech again. From the mouth of babes wisdom shall come forth...is a quote we all remember.
Here is Charlotte's speech:
Honorable judges, teachers, parents and fellow students. My name is Charlotte Maxwell, but I would like you to imagine that I am Martin Luther King, because I would like to share with you his story and his dream.
My parents called me Michael Luther King, but I preferred the name Martin like the great German preacher “Martin Luther” so when I got older I changed my name to Martin.
My Daddy and Granddaddy were both preachers. In fact we all served as pastors of the same church, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta Georgia from 1914 on.
I went to an all black high school and graduated when I was 15 years old. Then I went to an all black college before going on to get my preaching degree from a mostly white seminary where I was honored to be our class president.
I spent my life as a preacher, peacefully defending the rights of black people. All I wanted was that we would be treated as equal citizens across America.
Do you know that in many places, we had to use different doors to enter buildings, we had to drink from separate water fountains and we had to sit at the back on public busses!
Probably the highlight of my life was on August 28, 1963, when I had the privilege of giving a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. – that beautiful monument to the man who stood up and fought for the freedom of my ancestors who were serving as slaves.
I called the speech “I Have A Dream”. Let me share a little bit of it with you:
“I have a dream that is deeply rooted in the American Dream: ‘that all men are created equal.’
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that my four 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.”
I was surprised and delighted to be given the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts the next year – I was only 35 years old, the youngest person to have ever received this award.
Unfortunately, four years later I was shot and killed on the balcony outside my motel room in Memphis, Tennessee.
If I was alive today, I would be pleased to know that black people in America are treated with great respect.
If I was alive today, I would be a friend of that exceptional leader out of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years of his life in solitary confinement because he was guilty of the crime of being born black.
But I would be deeply distressed about the challenges facing my black cousins in Africa – especially the widows and orphans who are fighting for survival after losing many of their families to AIDS.
But today I would like to tell you about an even greater problem. A problem that so few know about, but so many should. In that great country of India, the home of the world’s largest democracy, is a group of people that desperately need our help.
I am speaking about the Dalit people. These are people who follow the Hindu religion, but are not part of the Hindu caste system, and therefore are called “the out-castes”.
They are not allowed to have contact with the upper caste people and therefore are also called “the untouchables”.
There are about 250 million Dalit men, women and children in India. This is about one quarter of all the people in the country, about 8 times the number of people in Canada and about 6 times the number of people who have AIDS.
We often hear about AIDS victims, but not often about problems facing the Dalit.
They are commonly refused entry to public parks and temples. Use of public wells is denied and many restaurants keep disposable drinking glasses for Dalit use. Their women are frequently abused and sold into prostitution.
Seven out of every ten Dalits live below the poverty line. Millions of Dalit children serve as bonded laborers or slaves.
They are only allowed to go to certain schools, live in certain areas and hold the lowest of jobs. And this has been going on for 3500 years.
“Dalit” comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “crushed, broken or downtrodden”.
Sanskrit is the historical language of the Hindu religion. The Dalit are not allowed to learn Sanskrit. According to Manu, the law giver, Dalits should not even hear the reading of the scripture in Sanskrit. If this happens, boiled lead should be poured into the offending Dalit’s ears.
In Matthew 25, Jesus said, “Whatever you do to help the overlooked or ignored around you, you are doing to Me.” There could be no higher goal than to serve Him by helping these people.
Would you pick up the torch that has fallen from my hand? Would you decide now that you will learn more about the oppressed people around the world and then when you have a chance, will you give them a hand? For that I can only say thank-you.
Posted by klajja at May 2, 2007 01:43 PM