Spare Change News
Harry B. Rutherford, Jr. lives in Columbus, South Carolina, where he has his own dental practice serving his community. On January 16, when the nation celebrates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by taking a day off of work to reflect, attend an event in his honor, like many Americans, Dr. Rutherford will be lending a helping hand in his community.
“We plan to help the homeless,” Dr.Rutherford said. This year will mark the 25th anniversary of Dr. King’s federal holiday, which is dear to Dr. Rutherfird’s heart.
“I never take that day off,” Dr. Rutherford said.
Growing up Dr. Rutherford witnessed racial segregation first-hand. Today, he is 70 years old, but the memories of African Americans being forced to ride in separate train cars are still vivid. He can also describe signs on bathrooms and outside of motels, which read, “Whites only.” The pain of being forced out of a classroom full of white people taking their SATs at a local university in South Carolina and being moved into a testing room the size of a tiny closet because of the color of his skin still lingers in his mind.
“I will never forget that,” Dr. Rutherford said.
Dr. Rutherford, a Howard University Dental School graduate, attended school with Black Panther Stokely Carmichael during the height of the civil rights movement. He marched alongside Dr. King during one of his visits to Howard and engaged in a small conversation with him.
“I don’t remember what we spoke about,” Dr. Rutherford said, laughing.
He does remember the hot summer Wednesday, August 28, 1963 when he participated in the historic March on Washington, which he described as a “joyous time.” Dr. Rutherford marched with over a quarter-million people including many of his college buddies who traveled from Tennessee and Atlanta to fight against poverty, advocate for jobs and liberation for all people. They marched from the Washington monument to the Lincoln Memorial, near where the new MLK memorial stands.
On Monday, January 16, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday holiday, the Occupy the Dream movement, which will be led by former NAACP Executive Director Dr. Benjamin Chavis, civil rights leaders, and pastors from black churches, will launch. The movement evokes the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision and will pick up his baton by encouraging the black community to take a stand against social and economic inequalities. “Since 1968 to now (today) the voice of the black church has contracted laryngitis,” Dr. Jamal Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, said at the National Press Club. He continued, “The original intention of the gospel is not that I will be a success, but my entire community may be able to rise to another place.” Leaders and community members in Boston, Atlanta, New York City, Washington, and other major cities plan to Occupy the Dream by gathering in front of the nearest Federal Reserve Bank in their city on the 16th.
For more information go www.occupythedream.org.
Forty-four years after the ‘March on Washington’ Dr. Rutherford reflects on Dr. King’s movement and his personal purpose.
“I was participating in an event that would help move the civil rights movement faster and forward,” Dr. Rutherford said.
Dr. Rutherford believes that African Americans have progressed since 1963, but “there’s a change, but there’s not a change.” He said although the United States has nominated its first black president the healthcare and education systems needs recovery. He is contributing to Dr. King’s dream and recovering the healthcare system through Palmetto Dental Services where he helps his community maintain bright smiles and good oral health.
NAKIA HILL is an assistant editor at Spare Change News.