On this day we honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a man who once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Dr. King used peace instead of violence and love instead of hate. He and hundreds of thousands of others fought for civil rights, eventually inspiring the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The demonstrations he helped to coordinate include the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sit-ins, and the March on Washington, where he delivered the famous and poignant “I Have a Dream” speech
“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings,” said Robert F. Kennedy, addressing a crowd the night Dr. King was shot and killed. “He died in the cause of that effort,” said Kennedy.
For a deeper historical look at Dr. King’s life, click here:
What his message means for Americans today
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness said, “It has become nearly ritual and routine on days like today when we honor Dr. King, to reduce his words to mere platitudes. But we must never, ever forget that he died a revolutionary.” Dr. King’s life was about unity and equity for everyone. His resounding message of justice, love, and non-violence was bolstered by the events of the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans, but his message was for all people.
This profound message was communicated by Dr. King when he famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Dr. King responded to the hate and discrimination entrenched in the “separate but equal” Jim Crow Laws. He went to great lengths to refute this way of thinking. One of the reasons Dr. King’s message was so effective was that he tapped the rhetoric of “all men are created equal” from the forefather’s earliest notions of a country in which people could truly be free –free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. This pursuit still continues today, but for people of different gender, race, ethnicity, and religion.
One of the principles of our democracy is that freedom of speech is protected. Dr. King exercised these rights to promote a unified and equitable society. Ronald Reagan once urged, “We should remember that in far too many countries, people like Dr. King never have the opportunity to speak out at all.”
Freedom of the press was argued to be essential to the functioning of democracy by our forefathers. Dr. King arguably would not have had the success he had if not for journalists covering the sit-ins, marches, and the violent, hateful responses to the Civil Rights Movement. Freedom of information should not be taken for granted and is inextricably linked to the civic action that we as citizens are afforded the right to take.
At the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication, President Obama said, “And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain.”
Tomorrow has been declared the National Day of Racial Healing by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, along with 130 other organizations who are committed to Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT). Visit their website to learn how you can get involved. A simple way you can take part and become an advocate is to use the following hashtags to promote the day on social media: #TRHT (Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation, #TheDayToHeal, and #DayOfRacialHealing.
If you’re curious and would like to learn more about social justice issues, the following books and films are an excellent place to start.
- “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
- “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai
- “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond
- “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn
- “Killing Rage: Ending Racism” by bell hooks
- “Feminism is for Everybody” by bell hooks
- “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela
- “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois
- “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
- “Hidden Figures”
If you’ve read any of the books above or watched any of the movies, feel free to share your experience or takeaways in the comments below.
Guest Blogger: Michael Wanta
Michael is an intern at TDS, tennis coach at Edgewood College, and also a graduate student studying sustainability and business. In his spare time, he plays music, does open mics, and reads (a lot).