“Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

180px-martin_luther_king_-_march_on_washington.jpgOn the eve of the inauguration of the first black president of the United States, a day also set for honouring one of the greatest civil rights leader in history, my eyes filled with tears today as I watched a video recording of Martin Luther King’s 17 minute ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

“I have a dream that my four little 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 have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, excerpt from ‘I Have a Dream‘ speech, Washington D.C., Aug 28/63

As I await the morrow, a day that many commentators, black and white, believe will signify a giant step towards the fulfillment of Dr. King’s magnificent vision I have mixed thoughts and emotions. I am filled with a sense of history; Dr. King has indeed proved, as did Ghandi before him, that non-violent protest can change the world, and tomorrow is the ultimate evidence of that creed.

But, as I turn away from my television back to the work of opposing the evils of race-based policing in Caledonia, I am angry and sad that in Ontario, in the year 2009, there are those who believe that it is acceptable to allow one race to victimize other human beings with the fullest protection and cooperation of the police, the Crown, cabinet ministers and the Premier. On one hand, it seems humanity has come so far while on the the other, my own province and police have learned nothing from the sacrifices and lessons taught to us by the civil rights movement at such a high price. 

Still, I am also filled with wonder at the other emotion that Obama’s election inspires: Hope. Hope that change can happen in a heartbeat, unexpectedly, with the most perfect of timing. Could anyone have imagined, in their wildest dreams, just one year ago that the next president of the United States would have black skin? It was unthinkable, yet it will happen tomorrow. For the people of Caledonia, the message is clear: anything can happen during our quest for justice and it can happen sooner and more spectacularly than we could ever have imagined. Jeff Parkinson and Gary McHale’s Jan 12/09 victory in Judge Marshall’s courtroom, for example, is nothing short of a giant shot in the arm for those who thought justice had died in Ontario.

So long as we continue to resist the evils of racial policing through non-violent means justice will return to live once more in Haldimand County. Dr. King’s closing words on August 28, 1963 quoted a Negro spiritual song that looked forward to a better day:  

“Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, 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 words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

One day freedom will again ring from every village, every hamlet and every city in Ontario. History promises it. I believe that Caledonia’s sons and daughters will one day sit down in brotherhood with the children of the police officers, politicians and warriors who dishonoured Dr. King’s memory with the foolish belief that past injustices could be rectified with violence and injustices against innocents.

Mark Vandermaas, Editor
Voice of Canada


  • VoiceofCanada feature: Lessons from Dr. King
  • One response to ““Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

    1. Dear Mark,
      I too watched the television in celebration of what Martin King accomplished. I was in tears at the story of Miss Jane Pittman, the first black person to drink from a whiteman’s fountain at the age of 110 in the Southern United States.

      Discriminatory policies laced with violence and a non-acting stance of the government must end.

      VoC REPLY: It will end, Mary-Lou. There is no doubt in my mind. The OPP, the Crown and McGuinty are on the wrong side of history. It is just a matter of time.

      Note to readers: Mary-Lou was recently quoted about Ipperwash and its relationship to Caledonia’s misery for the first time by an Ontario media outlet since we released the Ipperwash Papers project at Queen’s Park on March 14/07. See Dunnville Chronicle, Jan 17/09: Petition asks for inquiry into Fantino and OPP. See also VoC feature page, ‘The Ipperwash Papers.Mark