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Today I will sit behind a microphone for four hours with an Italian man from New York and talk sports.

It might not sound like a big deal, but during the civil rights movement, the "Valenti and Foster Show" on 97.1 FM would not be on the air. America would not allow a loudmouth Italian and a loudmouth black man to speak their minds on the radio.

We would not be allowed to talk about Miguel Cabrera and the surging Pistons, let alone the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and the Eric Garner death in New York.

I would not be allowed to write this column because our voices were often silenced.

Today we celebrate the dream of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I am living his dream. What is possible for me now was impossible as a youth while growing up during the civil rights movement and the riots of Detroit.

We were encouraged as black youth to use our hands and not our brains. I was advised not to pursue a journalism career because media was just something we did not do. Even my journalism teacher at Detroit Cass Tech said I was chasing a pipe dream.

That was the environment I grew up in -- even in the 1970s.

But I made a promise to my Aunt Margaret to make something of myself. She said her people fought in the civil rights movement. It was up to my generation to take advantage of it. My aunt was friends with the Barrow family. One of its family members was world champion boxer Joe Louis. It saddened her that after his best triumphs that there hotels and restaurants that would not have him.

I must also give an assist to former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, who encouraged the newspapers to hire more black reporters. I was part of a surge of diversity in the newsroom when I was hired as a young sports reporter from the Grand Rapids Press.

Some would scream affirmative action. I would scream that it was action that needed to happen.

Dr. King wanted our society to become a melting pot. He dreamed of the day when black boys and girls would hold hands with white boys and girls.

Another example of Dr. King's dream comes from my 15-year-old daughter Celine. She wants to play college soccer and hopes for a career in writing or law. She likes small liberal arts schools and got to spend a week at Albion College at a teen leadership conference.

Most of the kids there were white and the debate was how everybody in America has an equal chance of success. The vast majority of the kids were in agreement and wanted to rubber stamp the debate -- until Celine stood up.

She told the story of a 15-year-old pregnant girl she met who did not have a father in her Detroit home, and how difficult it is for her just to make ends meet, let alone find a career. She told the story of two boys who were placed in juvenile detention and are trying to turn their lives around but can't find others who believe in them or trust them.

Celine's message: We all have a chance, but don't say we have an equal chance. After her speech there were tears and hugs as the kids rethought their positions.

This is what Dr. King wanted. He wanted us to share ideas and not hide them. He wanted us to sit next to one another in restaurants, schools, press boxes and movie theaters.

We are not perfect, but you better believe my thoughts today will be on the dream of Dr. King as I work two jobs that were not possible for me during his movement.

Dr. King had a dream and thank God I am one person who lives it every day.

Terry.Foster@detroitnews.com

Twitter/TerryFoster971

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