Where do we go from here?

August 15, 2013

Gregory C. Townsend is currently a co-chair for the Birmingham Metro Diversity Coalition.  He holds a Master of Arts in Public and Private Management from Birmingham Southern College and is very active in his community where he has served on numerous community agency boards and volunteered with many groups to empower families and high-risk youth. Gregory is married to Pamela and they have two daughters Sh’Nese (25) and Ashleigh (17). They attend the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church where Gregory serves as an outreach/evangelism coordinator.

Dr. King's speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, on August 16, 1967, sought to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  His answer was eloquent—offering suggestions for moving society from a place of division and despair to one of unity and love. However, 46 years later, many U.S. citizens are entrenched in inequities that undermine their health and well-being. 
 
So, how do we emerge from increasing rates of poverty, growing economic insecurity, chronic homelessness, deteriorating community conditions, escalating violence, inadequate access to health care services and declining funding for public transportation? All healthy communities have the resources to address these issues. However, for most people, health outcomes are influenced by several factors: the quality and extent of medical care one receives, personal choices one makes with regard to behaviors such as healthy eating and exercise and institutional policies and practices that are beyond the control of individuals. 
 
To a significant degree, all of these factors are a function of where one lives, learns, works and plays. In predominately black and Hispanic communities, medical care, healthy foods and exercise options are scarce, and the levels of exposure to environmental degradation and violence are high. These conditions are powerful predictors of poorer health and shorter lives. 
 
Dr. King's desire was for “men to recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth.” It's time to abandon thinking that divides us --to realize a new community founded in faith and love—a united society that is willing to fight for the elimination of racist ideologies, segregation, social exclusion and prejudiced acts that perpetuate the exploitation of others. We should take every opportunity to come together.  
 
Since the DREAM has not been realized yet, the struggle for justice and equality continues.  Each year, to commemorate his birth, the Birmingham Metro Diversity Coalition(BMDC) sponsors its Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Walk to raise awareness of disparities in the greater Birmingham area. The walk is free and is held at Railroad Park.  
 
This is the new path we should follow from here.
 
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