On Monday, we will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the powerful civil rights leader gunned down in the prime of his life. He would have been 89. Although he died at 39, he accomplished more in his short life than men twice his age.
King led marches, boycotts and sit-in, formed coalitions and united people to help end racially discriminatory laws in the South. When he first appeared publicly in the 1950s, it was a shot in the arm for black folks who couldn’t even drink from the same water fountain as whites. His courage to change the culture, brought dignity to African Americans and elevated their worth not only in the eyes of Southern whites, but in their own eyes.
King’s ability to organize and motivate the masses formed a movement for non-violent protest which is still being seen and felt today. Black Lives Matter is an offshoot of the Civil Rights Movement. And, Colin Kaepernick taking a knee on the football field (instead of standing) during the national anthem to protest police brutality was a nod to the movement. Dr. King, a preacher, knelt at times also.
A powerful orator, King’s most quoted speech is “I Have a Dream,” which mapped out his ideals for racial justice and harmony. He envisioned a future when black people would be judged for their character, not the color of their skin.
Dr. King’s dream of racial, social and economic equality paved to way for many of the freedoms enjoyed today by people from all walks of life. His fight for equality was the forerunner of the modern day feminist movement, for gay rights, and third world immigrants.
Today, we refer to children of those who immigrated here illegally as “dreamers.” Everyone in America, from natural born citizens, legal or illegal immigrants, has a dream. And the right to pursue the fulfillment of those dreams is what makes America great.
It seems now that the right to pursue our dreams is quickly eroding. How can we pursue our dreams without decent healthcare, quality education for our children and a financial safety net for when we retire? If the current administration gets its way, a handful of powerful people will control who would get these benefits. Social Security and education could be privatized, so corporations would ultimately run everything.
There are challenges ahead for sure. That’s why it’s so important that we take time on the birthday of Dr. King to remember the dream. I hope all of you will take some time out to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy. Inglewood’s MLK Day Program and March on Monday, Jan. 15 is a good place to start. If you can’t make it there, watch a documentary of his life, read a book or volunteer. For several years now, political leaders like President Barack Obama have encouraged Americans to use MLK Day as a “day of service”—a holiday where you take a day on, not off. For details of the MLK Day in Inglewood see the ad on the back cover.