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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Speaking the Unspeakable: Abused and Neglected Women Speak Out On The 50th Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream”

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut 

Aug. 24, 2013  

Speaking the Unspeakable:

   Abused and Neglected Women Speak Out

On The 50th Anniversary of

 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s

 “I Have a Dream”

By Jeff Grant

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – in my mind the most important and stirring event in the history of our nation’s civil rights movement.

Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” states that today’s prisoner reentry movement is “the new civil rights movement” - I agree.  As a minister, activist and chronicler in this prisoner reentry movement, I searched for a spiritual angle for a sermon about the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s speech.

In our ministries we spend time with women living on the margins – women who are in shelters, halfway houses, sober living ministries and mothers and children who have been abandoned by husbands who have gone to prison leaving them without resources or a plan.   I asked some of these women if they would like to reflect on what Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” means to them.

Below are some of the responses.  The first is from a mother who has been left penniless (along with her children) by her husband; the second is from the Re-Entry Ministry on the Eastside of Bridgeport, Connecticut; and the last two are from student residents in the Reentry Ministry program. 

Last is a prayer that feels important to share on this anniversary of Dr. King’s speech - it was written recently for me by my wife.  I need it to read it and say it out loud everyday – today more than ever.  Perhaps you will find the same comfort and inspiration in it as I do.


“Our dreams make their path in to our life only if we trust in God and let him show us the way. 

In our lives there will be times when we are able to help others and there will be times when we need help. I have been going through a very difficult time in my life.  My husband is in jail and I have to face raising my children on my own.  I was in trouble and adrift but I have never lost hope that somehow, God will help me. And he has, he did it through a group of people that so generously gave themselves to help someone in need. Do not forget to help others when you can, as Dr. King said in his 1963 speech:  “Our brothers …have come to realize their destiny is tied up with our destiny… we cannot walk alone” If we help each other we will have a better future, together!” 

Re-Entry Ministry

“God had the plan. He used The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak faith-filled words 50 years ago that remain “alive” and “active” in our life and ministry today. And God empowered Martin Luther King to put His words into action. He told us that we are saved from things that bind us and rob us of our freedom and justice. His dream of freedom and justice was based on the love that Jesus Christ has for all people. For the past 34 years, we (Re-Entry Ministry) have labored to free women from the bondage of substance abuse... to give them a dream... that God has a plan to restore us and rescue us from our give a future and a hope... a dream that becomes a reality. What would things be like if Martin Luther King had not dreamed?”

 Two testimonies of ladies who have found freedom in Jesus Christ follow:

The 33rd Annual Re-Entry Ministry Banquet will be held on Sept. 14th at 12:30 pm at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport.  Among the speakers will be State of Connecticut Pardons & Parole Chair Erika Tindill.

Juelene L.

“I am 48 years old and from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. My parents Bernice F. and Collin L. are both deceased. I was drinking for 40 years since the age of eight (8) and at a later date I started smoking marijuana. Eventually, I stopped smoking the marijuana but continued drinking and at the age of 39 I went to jail for third degree assault and did not get out until I was 41, a year later I went back to drinking. After that I decided to ask for help from my counselor. They sent me to Atlanta for help. I went to two programs, but because of my anger I left them. I ended up back home living on the streets sleeping in abandon houses, in the park or wherever I could. I went to my brother to see if he could help me out, so he called his cousin and she makes calls to places and the last call was to Sister Queenie. We talked on the phone and here I am. I thank her for taking me in. She did great with me, my favorite Scripture is Psalm 138:1 ‘I will praise thee with my whole heart.’”

Pamela I.

“I am 49 years old, a mother of two sons, and grandmother of two, originally from Miami, Florida but relocated to Hartford, Connecticut. Before coming to Connecticut I had a 20 year addiction to crack cocaine and problem that I didn’t know how to handle or control. I sought help in all kinds of programs and treatments, trying to find answers that only God Himself can answer and fix.

After coming to Re-Entry, God is showing me a new way to live, and giving me a new life. Through Re-Entry, God has reached down in my heart, and given me a reason, a desire and a hope to live for. Re-Entry Ministry has taught me the value of living my life for Christ and doing His will.

I am so very grateful to Sister Queenie and all the dedicated staff who helped me and taught me the Word of God, and how to apply it to my life.

The Scripture I leave you with is Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, sayeth the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.’”

A Prayer for Jeff

by Lynn

Exalted God, You give me sacred tasks and I beg of you to grant me the courage and strength to faithfully execute my duties.

Please, guard me from the blindness of avarice and the thirst for glory and honor.  Endow me with the desire to service equally the poor and the rich, the wicked and the good, the enemy and the friend, and to see simply in each a fellow human being in pain.  Let your truth alone guide me.

Oh most compassionate and merciful God, strengthen me in body and soul that I might do your will and serve my fellows with kindness, compassion and intelligence.


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

(203) 339-5887 


  1. I was late with my reflection, so I thought I would add it here:

    I heard on the news the other day that The Rev. Jesse Jackson called President Barack Obama the "crown jewel of our work." This proclomation made me think of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, D.C., where visitors must enter through the "Mountain of Despair" towards the "Stone of Hope" in the plaza. Have we passed through despair, arrived joyfully in the freedom of the plaza, at the monument of hope, with the crown jewel on the head of the King? Truly, I feel joy and pride in the "crown jewels" that would not have been possible in the 1960s, but am loathe to forget about the segregation - of race, of wealth, of privilege - that disappoints his legacy to this day. As a feminist anti-prison activist, I believe that Dr. King's message about segregation is as important today as it was in 1963: not just in schools and neighborhoods, but behind bars. In applying his work to our prison industrial complex, I see a system that turns "others into things"; by imprisoning those we see as failed or different, our laws (and we!) practice injustice and debase our own humanity. We must reverse course, pursuing justice by, as he said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, "uplift[ing] the human personality": keeping families together, promoting healing rather than vengeance, unveiling privilege. Those of us who work creatively, subversively, beyond ourselves, with forgiveness, and focused on love and social uplift, can continue to fight for justice for those most segregated from our communities. I take as a call to action his words from his 1967 address to the SCLC: "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. And justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."

    1. Venice, Thank you for your thoughtful reflection - always wonderful to hear from you and read your work. A gift. Jeff