Story Corner

The Night Before the Dream

Bea’s family has traveled from far and wide to hear Dr. King—and plan how they’ll make his dream a reality.
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Illustration by Dania Wright

Reunion time! Some drove up, some came down
To hear Dr. King speak in D.C., our hometown.
By bus, car and train, many came a long way
And arrived on the eve of that wonderful day.

We stayed at the home of my dad’s Grandma Bea,
The eldest of all in our large family.
There was hugging and kissing and My-how-you’ve-growns,
Which caused squirming and giggling and quite a few moans.

Soon it was my turn to kiss Grandma Bea,
She said, “Here’s the young lady who’s named after me.”
Then I joined all my cousins in laughing and playing;
But we could still hear what the grown-ups were saying.

Uncle Joe, who had driven in sweltering heat,
Had passed places where he could not stop, rest or eat.
The older folks somberly shared memories
Of other such hardships and indignities.

Early next morning we went to the place
Where people of every age, faith and race
Had all come together to march peacefully
For jobs and for justice and equality.

With the Reverend King humbly leading the way,
We sang as we marched on that bright summer day.
My kinfolk, the night before tired and glum,
Were now hopefully singing, We Shall Overcome.

We gathered in front of the grand monument
To Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President.
Our anticipation had reached a high peak
When Dr. King rose and came forward to speak:

“I am happy to join you at this demonstration
One hundred years after Emancipation.
But five score years later the Negro’s not free;
He’s still chained by injustice and by poverty.”

I looked in the eyes of my Great Grandma Bea;
They were staring at something that I could not see.
What was she thinking, this woman so brave,
Who, at one hundred two, had been once called a “slave”?

King said, “Now is the time that we honor our creed
And the rights its magnificent words guaranteed.”
He’d say, “Now is the time!” Then he’d say it again.
And each time he did, I heard shouts of, “Amen!”

His words rolled like thunder; they flowed like a stream.
Then a voice cried out, “Martin! Now tell them your dream!”
That’s when his words seem to sprout wings and fly,
Lifting us up as they soared through the sky:

“I have a dream!” he proclaimed to the crowd.
His dream made us joyful and thankful and proud.
“I have a dream that this nation will be
An oasis of freedom and prosperity!”

King’s dream, for Great Grandma, was long overdue,
But he told of his dream for us younger folks, too:
That’s when this great man simply spoke as a dad
And mentioned the four little children he had.

He dreamed that one day they would live in a land
Where all of God’s children could walk hand-in-hand.
They’d be judged by their character, not by their skin;
That was a land that I longed to live in.

“We must all work together,” King said, “white and Black,
We cannot walk alone and we will not turn back.”
We all would go home, as King asked us to do,
To work for the day when the dream would come true.

Later that night it was my generation
Who spoke of the future with new inspiration.
We were filled with the bliss of our planning and dreaming.
As our parents looked on, all their faces were beaming.

We sang songs we had sung on the mall that great day,
With My Country, ‘Tis of Thee leading the way.
Great Grandma Bea, her voice trembling but strong,
Joined five generations of family in song.

As it got close to midnight, some nodded with sleep.
Were they dreaming of promises we’d vowed to keep?
I yawned as I watched my dear Great Grandma Bea
Gaze at the now-peaceful scene lovingly.

She smiled and said softly, “Let’s end the same way
That young Martin himself ended his speech today.”
And I’ll always remember, as sleep came on fast,
Hearing her sing, Free at last! Free at last!

Questions for Readers

Right There (In the Text)
Why had Bea’s family all gathered in Washington, D.C.?

Think and Search (In the Text)
Why couldn’t Uncle Joe stop at some places on his drive in?

Author and Me (In My Head)
How can ordinary people come together to push back against injustice?

On My Own (In My Head)
Bea learned a lot about the fight for justice from her great-grandmother. Who is a person you know or have learned about who has taught you about the importance of fighting for what is right?

About the Author

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