Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, words, and wisdom mean many things to many people.
He led nonviolent protests against segregation, hoping to get many discriminatory laws changed. He staged boycotts, marches and protests. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, becoming the youngest man to ever receive it. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, birthday is celebrated each year on the third Monday in January.
Martin Luther King Day memorials tend to celebrate King the Civil Rights leader, stressing his activism on behalf of interracial equality and reconciliation and putting less emphasis on the link between racism and poverty and in doing so neglect the advocacy of the poor.
Also, throughout his short life of just 39 years King fought for racial justice everywhere, not just in the United States. To that end, he traveled the world proclaiming his vision of the “beloved community,” and defining racism as a worldwide evil. He talked about the “ the moral imperatives of our time, we are challenged to work all over the world with unshakable determination to wipe out the last vestiges of racism,” and remarked. “It is no mere American phenomenon. Its vicious grasp knows no national boundaries.”. We can currently see that his statement clearly applies today as it did yesterday.
According to Rev. Joseph Lowery at a speech during a Martin Luther King Celebration:” Too many people want to freeze Dr. King in time and dwell on his 1963 “I have a dream” speech with its eloquent phrases and optimistic tone.... He became clear on questions of poverty, class, private property and the role of big business and the rich in setting the country’s priorities and foreign policy agenda.
His life and work has inspired others like Argentinean human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. The 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner was inspired, in part, by King’s letter to create Servicio Paz y Justicia, a Latin American organization that documented the tragedy of the desaparecidos. And African novelists and poets, including Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, who have denounced authoritarianism by King’s notion that it was morally essential to become a bold protagonist for justice.
Therefore, we should remember other words besides his “I Have A Dream” speech. Among others:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963.
“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964.
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”— Strength in Love (1963)
“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963.
Nevertheless, we often celebrate the messenger but ignore the message…Martin was more than a dreamer. In closing I would like to quote him when he said: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”— “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963.
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