Dr. King’s unfinished work is ours to complete

16 Jan, 23

Dear Friends,

Nearly 60 years ago in August 1963, over 200,000 people joined the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to demand civil rights, equal treatment, and economic justice for Black people. In front of the Lincoln Memorial, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his visionary I Have a Dream speech that still inspires today.

He described the "fierce urgency of now" as the time to take action, seek justice, and hold our nation to its promise. Today, we are living in another moment of "fierce urgency" that must be met with fierce action. Over the past few years, a raw resurgence of racism, bigotry, and extremism is fueling attacks on our democracy, fundamental rights, and hard-won progress. We are tasked to defend what’s been won by those who fought and sacrificed before us while pushing forward toward freedom and equality for all.

At the same time, people are recovering from a pandemic that worsened and widened the rampant racial, social, and economic inequalities that existed long before Covid-19. Ongoing inequality, stagnant wages, and rising costs are pushing the American dream out of reach for people who simply want the opportunity to make better lives for themselves, save for a rainy day, and build wealth for their families. People struggle to get by when they deserve a fair chance to get ahead.

Dr. King understood that economic justice was key to people being able to live freely and equally beside one another. That’s why economic equity is at the heart of the work being done to create a more just, inclusive, and prosperous Harris County. The county is making needed investments to bridge the economic divide and level the playing field with opportunities and services that put the American dream within reach.

The Harris County Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity (DEEO) is leading a workforce development effort that will train people for living wage jobs, connect them to competitive career paths, and provide opportunities for apprenticeships. The department is also making sure that everyone, including minority- and women-owned businesses, can fairly compete for county contracts, which helps create good-paying jobs and wealth where they're needed most.

Harris County is leading by example in the fight for living wages. The county previously established a $15-an-hour living wage for county employees and was the first county in Texas to require contractors on certain construction projects to pay workers a $15-an-hour living wage. Now, the county is working to expand the living wage policy to every county contract, which will create more job opportunities in the region.

Harris County is also working to ease the economic strain of childcare and housing with historic investments in affordable childcare and housing. The county’s housing initiatives help renters and buyers live in homes they can afford, provide eviction and foreclosure assistance to help keep people facing economic hardship in their homes, and protect the rights of renters living in county-funded properties. The historic investments in childcare will increase the number of affordable childcare centers and home-based providers—making high-quality childcare accessible for thousands of families.

There are still challenges ahead, but the progress we’re making on economic opportunity will help lead to the just and equitable society that Dr. King glimpsed from the mountaintop. His unfinished work is ours to complete.


Rodney Ellis