Tuesday, 12 February, 2008 3:06 PM
How Close Are We to Dr. King's
Black History Month has an added poignancy this year, as
it is almost 40 years to the day, since Martin Luther King delivered
his I Have Been to the Mountaintop speech. In the four
decades since that momentous occasion, there have been great strides
in civil rights and racial relations the fact that there
is a Black History Month at all would have been unthinkable in 1968.
Some of the progress
includes Senator Barack Obama winning a presidential caucus in a
predominately White state like Iowa. Conversely, there
have been recent reminders of Americas deep racial divide
with cases like the Jena 6 in Louisiana. So how far has America
really come since MLK declared on April 3, 1968; I want you
to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised
I was 19 when Dr.
King made that speech, recalls Willie Alexander, former NFL
Cornerback and author of Entering the Promise Land.
Three years later I was in the NFL and I thought Id
escaped discrimination. Turns out I was wrong.
Raised in segregation-era
Montgomery, Alabama, Willie had first-hand experience of the problems
caused by racial strife. Being a Houston Oilers Defensive Back brought
about stardom, but re-entering the real world as a black
business owner made Alexander realize a lot of work needed to be
done before African-Americans could realize the dream of Dr. Kings
Since his retirement
from the NFL in 1980 he has concentrated on building his own business
in Houston. Through his own experiences, Alexander found most African-American
businesses struggle to do commerce in a predominantly white-business
marketplace, and thus struggle to turn a profit.
At first I was
just a young man dealing with experienced executives, so I didnt
expect it to be easy, says Alexander. But what I do
find troubling is that even though Im now an experienced businessman
and company chairman in my late 50s, when I deal with less
experienced managers I am still having to swim against the tide
because Im a black businessman.
Alexander is using his
book Entering the Promised Land and Black History Month
to encourage Black Americans to embrace Rev. Martin Luther Kings
economic blue print, which called for spending money with institutions
that supported the Black Community, thereby creating a stronger
Black economic base.
The night before his
assassination, Dr. Kings final words spoke about his hope
for Americas future, He's allowed me to go up to the
mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land.
I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that
we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.
Over the span of his
unique life, Willie Alexander has personally seen how far up the
mountain Black Americans have been. But he hopes that the
40th anniversary of that speech and the embracing of Dr. Kings
message will finally mark the conquering of the summit thereby helping
all Americans with dreams of Entering the Promised Land.
About Willie Alexander
Willie Alexander is best
known as a Houston Oilers Defensive Back, a position he played for
nine seasons. He founded W.J. Alexander & Associates in 1980,
a full-service employee benefits consulting and insurance brokerage
firm in Houston, Texas. Willie also serves on public and private
sector boards, including the Amegy Bank of Texas, Greater Houston
Partnership and the Texas Childrens Hospital, and has been
a prime activist in numerous charities throughout his sporting and
business career. Born in Montgomery, Alabama during the segregation
era, Willie witnessed first-hand the rise and success of the civil
rights movement, which had a lasting impact upon him. He has a bachelors
degree in business administration from Alcorn State University in
Mississippi and he lives in Houston with his wife of 36 years. He
has three children. Willie Alexanders website can be found
Source: News and