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August 24, 2010

Dwayne Ross: The Dream Lives On.

My wife and I are too young to remember hearing Dr. King’s historic speech, but our parents made sure that we aspired to fulfill Dr. King’s dream and that our lives reflect his timeless values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service. On Juneteenth 2000, in the city of Katy Texas, a suburb of Houston, my wife Maria, and I, along with our 3 year old son and 7 year old daughter awoke to find a 7 foot cross burning a couple of feet from my son’s bedroom window. Our lives as we knew it would never be the same. Our pursuit of happiness was stifled. Our dignity was trampled on. Our security was robbed. Our pride was crushed. With this overwhelming sense of loss, our emotions were raging. We felt anger, fear, hatred, insecurity, and alienation, all because of the color of our skin. A few days after our civil rights were violated; organizations like the NAACP, ADL, The National Urban League and others including local leaders and clergy came to our front yard and held a prayer vigil, bringing to the forefront the teachings of Dr. King.

Ten years later, I am proud to say, our pursuit of happiness is within grasp, our dignity has been lifted, our security is stabilizing, and our pride is restored. With this restoration came a new sense of life’s importance; the need to make a difference, to be a part of something bigger. Out of this incident we went the longest time viewing ourselves as “THE” victims. Don’t get me wrong, we were victims, but we weren’t the only victims. The young perpetrators and their families were as much victims as we were. They were victims to an upbringing filled with hatred. Their families were victims for having to see the dreams of their offspring suspended due to years of incarceration. The city of Katy was victimized for it lost productive members of its community. At this point my wife and I like to say we reached a life affirming moment. We realized that a life seeded in hatred is a life wasted. We decided to turn our negative into a positive, to attempt to turn our lemons into lemonade. With the support of our family and trust in God, we sought the teachings of Dr. King to heal our hearts and realized that we all need a constant reminder of what Dr. King stood for.

My wife has a flag for every holiday/season and she displays them proudly outside our home. Year after year she would ask herself “Why isn’t there an option or choice to purchase a flag/banner to display that honors Dr. King? A flag that can be displayed on our homes and businesses during the national holiday honoring Dr. King’s birthday or during Black History Month? She came up with the idea of a commemorative flag, a symbol that would give us a sense of pride and duty, one that would galvanize us as a society, not polarize us. One that would unite us, not divide us. One that would stimulate dialogue, not alienate us. We submitted our idea to the IPM (the exclusive licensor of the King Estate) for licensing. After years of conversation and negotiation, we were granted the licensing rights for the first ever Commemorative Martin Luther King flag. You are looking at the fruits of our labor, our attempt to change our lemons to lemonade.

Our hope is that by displaying Dr. King’s flag throughout our country, the flag will help raise awareness, open up dialogue and promote the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we hope to educate a new generation about Dr. King's legacy. We see the flag/banner as a visual aid or tool in promoting peace during marches, parades, and civil rights rallies. We hope every home, school, and business will proudly display this flag honoring Dr. King. We’re proud to say that for the past two years Dr. King’s flag has flown daily at the King Center in Atlanta. It is displayed in museums throughout our country including The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Museum of Tolerance.

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