Hear from the co-author of 'I have a dream...'

By: Rebecca Nicole Laming

Dr. Clarence B. Jones, a personal friend and speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shares his experience as a civil rights leader and a call to action for Verizon.

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Dr. Clarence B. Jones is an unassuming man. Without being prompted, he excitedly shares his pride as a longtime Verizon customer, praising the stellar service he has received from Verizon's Palo Alto, CA, store. In fact, he brings it up several times, because he believes that hard work, kindness and commitment should be recognized and celebrated.

As someone who spent his career on the front lines of the civil rights movement, he is a good judge of hard work and dedication. Before Dr. Jones was a Professor at the University of San Francisco and Scholar in Residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, he served as speechwriter, counsel and personal friend to Dr. King.

Dr. Jones co-wrote the historic "I Have A Dream" speech and was by Dr. King's side when he delivered those remarks on August 28, 1963, to over 250,000 people at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Today, during Up To Speed Live, Rima Qureshi, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, and Kala Garner, Network Engineer and BOLD Leader, interviewed Dr. Jones on his experience as a civil rights leader, what he has learned from the past and the hope he has for the future.

The fight for equality is ongoing.

Born to parents who were domestic household servants, Dr. Jones has seen and studied the oppression that Black Americans have endured for centuries. It's what motivated him to take action and serve as a prominent figure in the movement for social justice and equality. To this day, Dr. Jones remains an active voice but now dedicates his time to cultivating the next generation of leaders.

"Frank discussions on race relations in America and the historical impact of the institution of slavery upon our current society remain problematical," Dr. Jones explained. "When I hear students say, 'Professor Jones, I've always considered myself colorblind.' I reply with, 'Well, if you're colorblind, you need to go see an ophthalmologist.' I know what they're trying to say. Those of us today who are trying to understand and deal with this 57-years after the March on Washington, we have to ground ourselves. We have to ground ourselves that the nation is still hobbled by this absence of information about fundamentally, who we are and how we got to be who we are."

While 1963 may seem like a distant past, Dr. Jones is quick to point out that we are fighting the same battle to dismantle systemic inequalities and injustices that have oppressed the Black community since 1619. They have morphed and evolved with the times, but the challenges remain unwavering and relentless.

An unfortunate example is what we have seen across the country and just this week in Wisconsin with the shooting of Jacob Blake. However, even with these dark days, Dr. Jones manages to see the light and the purpose behind the pain. "The events in Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Staten Island, Minneapolis, George Floyd indicate a fierce urgency of now, for our nation once and for all, to confront the reality of the consequential impact of slavery."

A message of hope for the V Team.

Despite the ongoing challenges, Dr. Jones only has hope that the dream he shared with Dr. King will soon be our reality. Today, he believes we have arrived at an inflection point that will shape an equitable and just world. And the reason he shares this bright outlook despite bearing witness and experiencing tremendous injustice comes down to companies like Verizon and communities like the V Team.

"You're the best and the brightest. You are in a company that has the capacity to influence millions of people. What can we do with the information and technology we have to make America be what it was intended to be?," Dr. Jones asked. "If Verizon can keep a cranky customer like me, I know you can come up with creative ways of dealing with the legacy of slavery. You have the will. And guess what? You have the knowledge at your fingertips, you just may not know how to do it. But I'm telling you, you don't have to...you have it."

First learn then take action.

While Dr. Jones' words will open your eyes to the work that needs to be done to pave the way for lasting progress, it's not enough to listen and hope for change. We have to take action.

This year, thousands will virtually March on Washington in honor of its 57th anniversary. We want to show our collective strength as the V Team and put the lessons shared by Dr. Jones into practice by marching #ForwardTogether.

Tomorrow at 12 PM ET, we will yield our time for Up To Speed Live to host a company-wide virtual March on Washington in partnership with our BOLD ERG. For V Teamers located outside of the U.S, please participate at 12 PM local time to join us in solidarity and action. All V Teamers who participate will contribute to Verizon's company-wide goal of 2.5 million volunteer hours by 2025. Make sure to sign up to participate through our Volunteer Portal.

Never one to sit on the sidelines, Dr. Jones will proudly wear his V Team gear and march with us as he did 57-years ago by Dr. King's side.

Double your impact.

Should you want to donate to Dr. Jones' organization, University of San Francisco - Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, remember we have a match program to double the impact of donations $25 or more for Verizon employees. V Teamers, head here to learn more and get the process started.

If you haven't watched this special #Next20 episode, make sure you take the time and share it with your loved ones. These are the types of conversations that stick with you and shape your outlook on how we can drive effective action as a company and community. As Dr. Jones said, we are the best and brightest and have the power to make an extraordinary difference when we unite as the V Team.

This is #Next20—the voices of the future.

Need to catch up on #Next20?

Don't worry, we've got you covered with the latest episodes:

Episode 1: Criminal Justice Reform
Episode 2: Making Every Vote Count
Episode 3: American History 101
Episode 4: Reimagining small businesses during COVID-19

If you have any questions, email them to live@verizon.com.

Get the latest information on our Coronavirus Resource Page (Inside Verizon, The Street).

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