revjoaquinwillisweb.gifIn Genesis 41:15, “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.’”

Martin Luther King Jr. also expressed a dream one hot August day. Yet sadly, upon the death of this man of peace and dreams, destructive fires erupted, gutting communities and spirits.

In my freshman year at Howard University in 1968, our sit-ins and building occupations were interrupted by news of nationwide fires.

“My God,” I thought to myself, “What’s going on?” 

Since age 12, I had dreamed of attending Howard. As flames consumed black-owned businesses, I gained perspective about what it would take to extinguish these fires, and was granted the gift of discovering my life’s calling.    

To me, the fires of yesteryear still burn, with scarcity, separatism and selfishness yet eroding our sense of community. Forty years after Dr. King’s death, amidst the fame of his oratorical skills and “I Have Dream” speech, I was recently reminded that, “The Dream Goes On!’’

On June 10, 2008, Miami-Dade School Superintendent Rudy Crew and the “School Improvement Zone” (SIZ) staff of the school district, using “The Dream Goes On!” theme, celebrated the success and conclusion of the SIZ program. Results are impressive.

The Florida Department of Education, which gives schools a grade, noted that, from 2004 through 2006, “A” schools increased from 0 to 2,  “B” schools from 0 to 6, and “C” schools from 5 to 20. The number of “D” schools decreased from 23 to 6 in the period.  Since SIZ, the percentage of “D” and “F” schools in 2005 has dropped from 90 percent to just 22 percent in 2007, with major success at the elementary level. Harvard University has named SIZ one of the nation’s top 50 innovative public-private organization partnerships.

In biblical times of scarcity, Joseph devised a plan that allowed people to eat during seven years of plenty, as well as in years of famine. Joseph had faith that God would feed both the haves and the have-nots. Joseph put out the fire of scarcity and prevented chaos by using abundance thinking to maintain and create a new community.

Joseph saw that environmental conditions had put him and Pharaoh in the same boat, with the fortunes of their people at stake. Joseph put out the fire of separatism, using inclusive behavior, to keep the community afloat. 

By suggesting that Pharaoh select a person of wisdom to govern Egypt, Joseph avoided assuming his own appointment, even after 13 years of imprisonment. Upon becoming governor of Egypt, Joseph thought abundantly, inclusively and interdependently. As famine spread throughout the region, Joseph’s family traveled to Egypt for food.   Joseph put out the fire of selfishness by creating an interdependent community.

The successes of Joseph and of the SIZ program derive from similar strategies.  Both put out the fires of scarcity, separatism and selfishness.
How, you might ask?

Abundance thinking trumped scarcity. Inclusive behavior extinguished separatism. The creation of an interdependent community destroyed selfishness. Joseph and Crew created relationships based upon principle-centered leadership and cooperative force. They demonstrated that we are, indeed, our brother’s keepers.

God bless you, Crew. Keep up the good work!

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at