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Writer talks of work yet undone

Published February 8, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Journalist and TV commentator Juan Williams asked an audience of 450 people at Eckerd College on Wednesday to imagine a conversation between a living Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a current St. Petersburg resident.

Dr. King: How is the black family?

Resident: Seventy percent of black children are born to single parents, and 25 percent of black Americans live in poverty.

Dr. King: How are the schools doing?

In Williams' scenario, King hears about the "terrible" achievement gap between white and minority students; the 50 percent dropout rate among black and Latino children; and that black and Latino males make up 60 percent of the U.S. prison population.

Dr. King shakes his head in disbelief. His disappointment grows as he views disparaging images of African-Americans on MTV, Comedy Central and Black Entertainment Television.

Williams offered this stinging commentary to highlight the perennial problems of race and poverty in America almost 40 years after Dr. King's death.

Drawing on the lessons of Hurricane Katrina, he said, we cannot afford to not talk meaningfully about lifting people out of poverty.

He stressed the importance of family and education and spoke passionately about self-reliance.

Williams, a contributor for National Public Radio's Morning Edition and a political analyst for Fox Television, has authored six books. His most recent, Enough - The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America, is a rebuke of modern-day black leaders.

"Imagine that if (Dr. King's) life had true meaning," Williams said, "he would call upon all of us to have a moment of conscience."

[Last modified February 8, 2007, 01:22:41]

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