When Senator Barack Obama gave his recent speech titled "A More Perfect Union" he referred to the gap "between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time." Anyone who has seen Dare Not Walk Alone will know what that gap looks like and that it still exists today.
Here's a link to the text and video of the speech and here's the passage that describes what Dare Not Walk Alone has so effectively documented:
"...words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time."Those words capture the spirit of the struggles that played out on the streets of St. Augustine in 1964, where ordinary people, black and white, Christian and Jewish--and doubtless other faiths and philosophies as well--put their lives on the line to pass legislation that would finally dismantle the Jim Crow laws and move America closer to "a more perfect Union."
But Jim Crow laws rose up after slavery was struck down, and more subtle forms of discrimination took hold after the civil rights acts struck down Jim Crow. The gap was narrowed but not closed. And when the film turns its cameras on the present we clearly see "that legacy of defeat" which Senator Obama refers to as being "passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future."
Yet the film also shows how meaningful steps can be taken toward healing divisions that still exists more than forty years after the heroic struggles of 1964. And surely now is the time to face up to the challenge, not by glossing over grim realities, not by absolving individuals of responsibility for their own actions, but by extending the hand of friendship, finding a kind word, accepting good will at face value, and having some faith in our fellow citizens, angry and hurt though they may be.
As Senator Obama put it: "the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races." The goal of Dare Not Walk Alone has always been to expand our understanding, close that chasm, narrow the gap, help the dialogue begin and take hold.