Rev. Jones delivered the invocation at this year's Martin Luther King day rally at the state capitol, one day before the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Spirit of Life and Love, as we assemble in the shadow of a flag which symbolizes a heritage of hate, we gather not with bitterness but with faith that the moral arc of the universe may be long, but it bends toward justice. Tomorrow at noon, it will bend a little more as an African American senator takes the oath of office to become the President of the United States, standing on Capitol steps laid by African slaves. Martin Luther King himself could not have imagined this historic inauguration when he preached his dream of equality in the nation’s capital in 1963. It is indeed a dream come true.
It is dream come true for Africans kidnapped from their homes, crammed into the bowels of slave ships, thrown overboard when they were sick, and brought against their will to this “land of the free.”
It is a dream come true for people of color who were bought and sold on the auction block like livestock, torn from their families, prohibited from marriage, disallowed to read and write, shackled in chains, brutalized and raped by slave masters, made to work without wages, and on whose backs bore the economy of this prosperous young nation.
It is a dream come true for freed slaves who were denied their civil liberties as citizens and their dignity as human beings by the separate and unequal system of segregation and who were intimidated by hooded terrorists, ashamed to show their faces, who burned their homes, bombed their churches, and made of them a strange fruit hanging from trees by a noose.
It is a dream come true for civil rights marchers, some of whom we are privileged to have in our midst, who endured fire hoses and tear gas, vicious dogs and billy clubs, cattle prods and bull whips, boycotts and bullets as bravely as any soldier on the battlefield, for they were foot soldiers for freedom.
Yes, tomorrow will be a dream come true in the high places of power. But let us not allow our celebration to deter us from the work that remains to be done in the low places of racial inequality and economic disparity.
In the low places young men and women who have no viable opportunities here at home are sent abroad to fight an unnecessary and unjust war so that people in high places may profit from their blood.
In the low places many working people must work two and three jobs just to survive because a minimum wage is not a livable wage.
In the low places 46 million Americans don’t have health insurance and must make that unconscionable choice between a visit to the doctor and a visit to the grocery store.
In the low places there is a corridor of shame of school children, our boys and girls, our future, consigned by their state government to a minimally adequate education as if that were morally adequate.
Whether your ancestors came to these shores in a pilgrim ship or a slave ship, we are all in the same boat now.
Whether you listen to hip hop, be bop, doo wop, or dance the lindy hop, it’s time for all of us to sing from the same page a song of dignity and worth for all persons.
Whether you wear saggy pants or pull your pants up to your chin, it’s time for all of us to put on our work clothes and get down in the trenches and work for justice in the low places, even right here down in South Carolina, where in too many categories, we are at the top of everything bad and at the bottom of everything good.
Let us join hands and work together for that day when, “Justice will roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Let us work for that day when the promise that “all persons are created equal” will be a promised fulfilled. Let us work together to make the American dream a reality for all people, and let us make it reality in the low places as well as the high places. May you and I be fortified for this noble work by the courage of our convictions, the hope of our ideals, and the strength of our faith.