February is Black History month, a time when many will recognize the achievements of Afro-Americans. There are varied opinions concerning the progress made during the nearly 25 years since Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington.
How far have Afro-Americans progressed in the quest for civil rights? Are conditions continuing to improve for blacks, or are the gains of the past slipping away?
Afro-Americans have progressed because of the special people who have stood up and spoken out for our rights. In 1952, when Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, Martin Luther King, Jr. conceived a dream of civil rights. He spoke out for equal opportunity regardless of race.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to jail many times for his people, and in the end he gave his life so that Afro-Americans could be free. Because of his leadership, today's Afro-Americans have progressed to a position of equality in America.
But I feel that the gains of the past are slipping away because some Afro-Americans are destroying what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for. Young Afro-Americans today are in danger of letting drugs take away what King and the Civil Rights Movement won for us. How saddened he would be if he were here today, to see that so many have forgotten his message. BELINDA BROWN Spingarn
We, as Afro-Americans, are slowly but surely moving towards our goal. We are excelling in the worlds of sports, business. politics and education, medicine and law.
We are still struggling, but conditions are definitely improving. Twenty-five to 30 years ago, blacks could not sit where they wanted in movies or on buses. There is so much that we take for granted . . . we should let Black History Month remind us of how far we have come and of how far we still have to go.
We must keep the struggle alive so that one day there will be no need for one. CHARLENE HARDY Eastern
Afro-Americans have made some progress in jobs, education, housing and economics. Our progress can be measured in terms of integrated schools, public transportation, a black candidate for President and many other achievements which are too numerous to list.
Our conditions are improving because blacks are taking control of their destinies and futures. Even though we have made some progress, much more is needed. During Reagan's administration, some of the programs that were designed to help the poor have been terminated. This leads one to believe some of our gains have slipped away. DESIREE NEWMAN Holy Spirit
There is no doubt that the accomplishments of Afro-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement improved conditions and initiated progress for blacks.
However, the gains of the past are not so much "slipping away" as they are being taken for granted; underestimated by those who were not involved in the struggle but nonetheless reap its benefits.
We, as a generation, have become complacent, apathetic and seemingly de-sensitized to the climate and issues around us; only stirring ourselves to action when infringements are made on our time. Mistakenly, we view the events of the March on Washington as a "black issue" alone when it was, and still is, an equality and humanity issue.NIK CLARKE School Without Walls
I am white, so I can't say what it was like to live as a black during these times. Also, I wasn't living when civil rights were a major issue, and, in my early years, I was ignorant of the whole problem. But now I can see major changes, at least from what history has taught me.
Blacks hold public office; they are outstanding in the fields of education, medicine and law; they are in all sorts of professions.
Blacks have indeed come a long way, but there is still a last big step. When people stop using the word "black" as an adjective to describe an artist, judge or presidential candidate, then all of us will have come a long way. STEPHEN MISSAR St. John's
I believe that blacks in America have come far since the days when we first arrived in the United States as slaves. We are no longer bondsmen in the physical sense. We are, as we have always been, an important part of society, except that now we are recognized more for our abilities and contributions than we've been in the past. Through sweat, toil and tears, we have accomplished this. We've fought the stubborn minds of racists and have had many victories.
Now, however, we seem to be coming to a standstill in the improvement of our conditions, and perhaps a regression. We often take for granted the efforts of our past leaders. Young blacks today often do not take advantage of the opportunities available. Blacks today have many opportunities and chances but do not take advantage of them. We are being thrown a golden ball, but we are letting it roll past us. AKINA McKINNIE Roosevelt
It is not good enough that we, as blacks, finally have a black candidate running for President. It is not good enough that the first black quarterback finally went to the Super Bowl. These are good, but how far have Afro-Americans really progressed in the quest for civil rights?
I think we have come a long way. We have more freedom and more rights than ever before. We are finally living the dream that our forefathers had spoken of. However, we still have a long way to go. We still have discrimination. It just isn't as seen as widely.
I feel that, during this Black History Month, as during every other month, blacks really can be thankful: for what was done, what is being done, and for what is going to be done for civil rights. PAMELA HARDY Wilson
Undeniably, blacks have made significant accomplishments in many facets of life. I feel that although social, economic and political equality have not yet been fully reached for blacks, there has been tremendous growth in self-worth.
Blacks are continuing to find within themselves their value as important and necessary members of society. It is this growing awareness that has helped blacks to use both emotion and intellect to pursue their goals. This in itself signifies black progress in the quest for civil rights. MICHELLE MITCHELL Georgetown Visitation
The struggle for civil rights still continues to be an issue of debate. Have many blacks given up on "the dream" or has the quest for progress become weakened by society's reluctance to change?
Dr. King had a way of lifting the spirits and the minds of oppressed people. His speeches were filled with sadness, guilt, happiness and problems to overcome. But because Dr. King is gone, the pride and the dignity are not as powerful as they used to be. But we must remember, as a nation, that change is only made when everyone's voice is heard. The quest for progress is not at a standstill, but it is moving at a snail's pace.NELDA CID Notre Dame
Afro-Americans have progressed a great deal in the quest for civil rights. The reason is that many of us blacks are becoming something in this day and age. It is not only the whites who are becoming the lawyers, judges, and engineers. We, the Afro-Americans, are entering these professions. We're all out to make something of ourselves because there is a career that's calling each one of us. We, the Afro-Americans, know that the opportunity is free and the challenge is there for us.
The conditions are beginning to improve for blacks because there are more opportunities and programs to keep them from the street. Conditions are getting better day by day. We've improved our style of living. More of us are coming to understand that we need a job instead of planning on a "first of the month" basis.
We can only improve when we have cooperation. KAREN GRANT Anacostia
My dad has told me of not being able to get into a restaurant because he is an Afro-American. I have seen stories on television of how blacks used to be banned from everyday activities. Today, you can easily find a restaurant owned by a black person.
At the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, there weren't any black Supreme Court Justices. There weren't any black people running for President. A black man could be beaten up in his own home and his assailant could get away unpunished. Today, if a newscaster states his ignorant and demeaning opinion about black athletes, he is fired.
The accomplishments of blacks in the last 25 years are remarkable. What is equally important is the perseverance of black people in maintaining their equal status. Although we have not reached the totally integrated society that Martin Luther King Jr. and others dreamed of, we are well on our way. ADRIAN FENTY Mackin
Afro-Americans have come a long way considering what they have had to deal with. Although they have come far, they still have a long way to go. Dr. King had a dream, and in his memory we should further the process of eliminating racial discrimination.
One way to improve conditions is to teach students, black and white, about the Afro-American heritage -- not just about slavery, but about figures in literature and politics. We need to do this more than once a year, too. It's done in February and then drifts away until next year.
Increasing understanding would convince more people that blacks are worth more than some credit us for. AISHA SATTERWHITE National Cathedral
I believe that the struggle of our great Afro-American leaders to gain civil rights and equal opportunities for all blacks has led to significant changes for black Americans. They not only helped to abolish segregation laws, but helped black Americans establish their own purposes in society.
If one were to look at the world now, with all its hate and bigotry, it would be assumed that the dream that Dr. King had is unfortunately slipping away.
This society has actually turned the wheels of time back. Sometimes, things seem just as bad as they were then. What makes it all so shocking is that people seem to be letting it all happen and are not fighting hard enough to change things. They are losing the focus of the dream, and once it's gone, so will be the hope of the future. DYA WILLIAMS Woodson
The March on Washington in August of 1963 was when Dr. King proclaimed his dream. If he were alive today, I believe he would be proud of our progress towards civil rights, but I also feel he would want us to continue the struggle.
Significant gains have been made, but there is one area that hasn't changed; the attitude that we, as a people, aren't capable of accomplishing great, meaningful things. On January 31, in San Diego, history was made. A black man led his team to a Super Bowl victory and did it with dignity and grace. All Americans now will have to re-examine their views of just how far we as a people can go. DORIAN TERRY Spingarn S.T.A.Y.
I feel that Afro-Americans have progressed in many different ways, but that there are many things we have to finish to be able to say, "we have reached our goal."
Conditions have improved some, but there is still a great deal that has to be done. Things that need to be improved are jobs, education and hospitals. I hope to see everyone treated equally in every walk of life.
Times are hard for so many people. You can look around and see how things are hard for us blacks. Everything takes time and, thank God, we have time on our side. YVONNE JONES Cardozo
Blacks have come a long way towards civil rights. There was a time when blacks had to answer a white person by saying "sir" or "ma'am." There was also a time when, in order to use a public lavatory, we had to go to one labled "colored." When we wanted to ride the bus, we had to sit in the back.
Thanks to famous black Americans like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, who worked for us to have a better life, conditions today are improving for blacks a whole lot. At one time, blacks couldn't vote, but now blacks can vote for their particular candidate. In the past, blacks were only "sanitation engineers. Today, blacks are working for corporations. RAYMOND WHITING Ballou
"Speak Out" Topic for March 3.
What are the issues that most concern teenagers today? What do you believe the future holds for your generation?
Responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. All submissions should include the student's name, school, age and grade.
Responses should be addressed to: Weekly High School Section The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20071 Deadline for responses is Monday, Feb. 29.