Honouring Dr. Martin Luther King …

Today is Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday in the United States to honour one of the greatest men who ever lived in this country.  I first wrote this tribute to Dr. King in 2017, and each year I reprise it, with slight changes or minor additions, for I find that it still says exactly what I wish to say.  Given the increase in racism in the United States in recent years, I think the above quote seems more apt today than ever before.  So please, take just a minute to, if nothing else, listen once again to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  In these troubled times, it is good to be reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream.  More than ever, I wish we had a few Dr. Martin Luther Kings fighting for equality and justice for all today.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” 

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”

mlk-3Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on 15 January 1929.  He would have been 93 years old last Wednesday, had he lived. On this day, we celebrate not only his life, but also his legacy. Martin Luther King Day celebrates not only Dr. King, but the movement he inspired and all those who helped move forward the notion of equal rights for ALL people, all those who worked tirelessly during the civil rights era of the 1960s, as well as those who are continuing the good fight even in this, the year 2022.  Dr. King’s fight lives on, for we have moved further away than before from his dream.

Dr. King, along with President John F. Kennedy, was the most moving speaker I have ever heard.  To this day, I cannot listen to his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech without tears filling my eyes.  If you haven’t heard it for a while, take a few minutes to watch/listen … I promise it will be worth your time.

This post is both a commemoration and a plea for us to carry on the work that was only begun, not yet finished, more than five decades ago.  Today we should remember some of the great heroes of the civil rights movement, those who worked tirelessly, some who gave their lives, that we could all live in peace and harmony someday: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lena Horne, Marva Collins, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Roy Innes, Medgar Evers, Stepen Bantu Biko, Booker T. Washington, John Lewis, Percy Julian, Marcus Garvey, Desmond Tutu, E.D. Nixon, James Meredith, and so many more.  I am willing to bet there are some on this list of whom you’ve never heard, or perhaps recognize the name but not the accomplishments. If you’re interested, you can find brief biographies of each of these and more at Biography.com .

Yet, while we celebrate the achievements of Dr. King and the others, there is still much to be done. Just look around you, read the news each day. Think about these statistics:

  • More than one in five black families live in households that are food insecure, compared to one in ten white families
  • Almost four in ten black children live in a household in poverty, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Among prime-age adults (ages 25 to 54), about one in five black men are not in the labor force, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Although blacks and whites use marijuana at approximately the same rate, blacks are over 3 and a half times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession
  • For every dollar earned by a white worker, a black worker only makes 74 cents
  • Black families are twice as likely as whites to live in substandard housing conditions
  • Black college graduates now have twice the amount of debt as white college graduates
  • The likelihood of a black woman born in 2001 being imprisoned over the course of her lifetime is one in 18, compared to 1 in 111 for a white woman
  • Similarly, the likelihood of a black man being imprisoned is 1 in 3, compared to 1 in 17 for a white man
  • Of black children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, about half of them will still be there as adults, compared to less than one-quarter of white children

Data courtesy of the Brookings Institute – for charts and supporting details of above date, please click on link. 

And of course the above data does not even touch upon the recent spate of hate crimes, racial profiling, and police shootings against African-Americans.  There is still much of Dr. King’s work to be accomplished. But who is left to do this work?  Most of the leaders of yore are long since gone. There are still noble and courageous people out there carrying on the programs and works of Dr. King and the others, but their voices are perhaps not as loud, and there are none so charismatic as the late Dr. King.

In the current environment of racial divisiveness, we need more than ever to carry on what Dr. King only started. Instead, the past several years have found our nation backtracking on civil and human rights in a number of areas, ranging from discriminatory travel bans against Muslims to turning a federal blind eye to intentionally racially discriminatory state voter-suppression schemes, to opposing protections for transgender people, to parents demanding a re-write of our history to salve their own consciences.  I think Dr. King would be appalled if he returned to visit today.

In a speech on April 12th, 1850, then-Senator and future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis said:

“This Government was not founded by negroes nor for negroes, but by white men for white men.” [1]

That was wrong then, it is wrong today, and it will always be wrong.  That is what Dr. Martin Luther King fought against, that is what I rail and sometimes rant against, that is why we need activists and groups dedicated to fighting for equality for all people … today, tomorrow, and forever.

Here is a bit of trivia you may not know about Dr. King …

  • King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin.
    The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.

  • King entered college at the age of 15.
    King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College, the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Although he was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, King did not intend to follow the family vocation until Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays, a noted theologian, convinced him otherwise. King was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology.

  • King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
    Six years before his iconic oration at the March on Washington, King was among the civil rights leaders who spoke in the shadow of the Great Emancipator during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. Before a crowd estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000, King delivered his first national address on the topic of voting rights. His speech, in which he urged America to “give us the ballot,” drew strong reviews and positioned him at the forefront of the civil rights leadership.

  • King was imprisoned nearly 30 times.
    According to the King Center, the civil rights leader went to jail 29 times. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.

  • King narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death.
    On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of delicate emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him. From his hospital bed where he convalesced for weeks, King issued a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his mentally ill attacker.

  • King’s mother was also slain by a bullet.
    On June 30, 1974, as 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead. Chenault received a death penalty sentence that was later changed to life imprisonment, in part due to the King family’s opposition to capital punishment.

Dr. King fought and ultimately gave his life for the values I believe in, the values that should define this nation, though they often do not.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a hero of his time … thank you, Dr. King, for all you did, for the values you gave this nation, and for the hope you instilled in us all that your dream will someday come true.

[1] (Kendi, 2016)   stamped

Note:  Our friend TokyoSand has written a post with ideas for how each of us can help carry on Dr. King’s legacy … I hope you’ll pay her a visit!

32 thoughts on “Honouring Dr. Martin Luther King …

  1. Pingback: Honouring Dr. Martin Luther King …-January 17, 2022 – Jamaica: Political Economy

  2. Pingback: HONOURING Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  3. You are undoubtedly aware of the “Drum Major Institute : Peace – Justice – Equality” which was founded in 1961 and still at work through the efforts of Martin Luther King lll, his wife – Andrea Waters King and their teenage daughter – Yolanda Renee King. Today, though, allow me to draw your attention to some words from King lll : “No celebration without legislation”! His words were directed at the necessity for passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the MLK lll family is attending the ceremonies today in Washington DC promoting them. The choice of words may seem misleading but the I believe that the intention is to not use today as just a day of relaxation, rather as a day working to pass both much needed legislations. It is their, and my, hope that Congress will do whatever it takes to do just that. A plethora of words will be, and have been in the past, uttered by many politicians about the subject. Congress could most honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by following the idiom “actions speak louder than words” and passing both into law. WHAK!! Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Belatedly on a return visit, I realize that earlier as I was hurriedly two finger typing I omitted a letter in Mrs. King’s first name…an “r”, her name is Arndrea. My apologies to Arndrea Waters King. No one likes their name mispronounced or misspelled. Though many years ago I did enjoy one of my darling differently-abled children always printing my name as “LN”! Thank-you!

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    • Yes, I am aware of DMI … I believe it may have been you who introduced me to the organization a year or three ago! They do good work. Sadly, no bills to protect and preserve our right to vote, that right which Dr. King fought so hard for, will be passed today or tomorrow or later this month. WHY? Because fully half of the United States Senate are half-wits who are interested only in their own power and profit and they hope that within three years this nation will have been turned into a dictatorship under the lead of a lunatic! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. There are no longer ANY Republicans in Congress who deserve their seat, who possess a conscience, or who give a damn about We the People. Sigh. MLK would be horrified to see what this nation has become. WHAK!!!


  4. Pingback: Honouring Dr. Martin Luther King … — Filosofa’s Word | just drive, will you?

  5. Jill, I saw where the new VA governor just signed an executive order to deny teaching of critical race theory. I guess Emmett Till’s horrible murder and torture, or the Birmingham bombing, or the Edmund Pettus bridge attack on innocent protestors, or the reasons for Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” or the voting suppression, or stealing the land while killing Native Americans should not be taught. And, while they are at it, they can teach more of what I was taught as southern boy that the Civil War was about states’ rights and not slavery, misinformation used way back then by slave owners to get poor whites to do their fighting for them. Whitewashing history is not new, but it seems to have reared its ugly head again. MLK would not be pleased. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and he also rescinded mask and vaccine mandates. I read today that a number of school districts are planning to challenge him on the vaccine & mask mandate bans. But to your point about Critical Race Theory … it seems that those who are fighting against teaching our children our true history are planning to whitewash the past, to literally re-write the history of this nation. How can we learn from our mistakes if we won’t even admit them??? Luckily, there are people like you and me and millions of others who will keep the memory of this country’s past alive, even for the next generation. No, MLK would not be pleased if he returned to earth today and saw what a shambles we’ve made of it all. Neither, I think, would the Founding Fathers.


    • Unless I have been lied to, “Youngkin signed 11 executive orders with one banning the teaching of “divisive concepts.” What are “divisive concepts”?” (Excerpted from Claytoonz)
      If people are willing to take advantage of this utterly stupid but fortunate wording, they can make life living hell for Youngkin and his followers. The door is wide open. All someone needs do is walk through it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • He did sign a number of executive orders and I haven’t yet looked into them all, but I know one would take what children learn out of the school’s hands and into the parents, but that will almost certainly never fly. Among the others were lifting mask and vaccine mandates, but most school districts are already saying they will not follow Youngkin’s ban on the mandates. I’ll look more into it in a few days when I feel more up to it.


        • According to CLAYTOONZ, he already knows his executive order about masks in schools has no power whatsoever, it is in the control 9f some other government department, but that he signed it just because it makes him look good to anti-vaxxers and other high conservatives.
          If that alone is not enough for the people of Virginia to recall him as governor, I guess nothing is.
          Meanwhile I see your medical issues are still hanging on. Take care of yourself, my dear friend.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think most of the ‘executive orders’ he signed will be challenged in the courts … he seemed to be on a tear, determined to make his mark on his first week, without thinking … but then, he’s a Republican and thinking is not their strong suit.

            Yeah, my medical issues are still here. I’m forcing myself to do more, but then I sometimes overdo and pay for it in spades the next day. I suppose I should stop dreading it and re-schedule that cardiac procedure, but I am so burned out on hospitals and doctors that I just … don’t want to. However, I won’t likely be able to do much more than I’m doing now, which is minimal, until I have that done. Sigh. LuL


  6. I do not remember Mr. STEPHEN (Stepen) BANTU BIKO being on your list previously, so thank you very much for adding him, Jill, whenever you did so. From my reading and from my so-poorly-used investigative skills, Mr. BIKO was the inspiring force in challenging and defeating Apartheid laws and social conditions in South Africa. His name should be right up there with that of Martin Luther King, Jr. In the United States of America. He started as a black university student, and quickly became the most successful leader of the Bantu people, who were all forced to have their ancestral name written right into their given names in attempts to allow black people to know their tradional enemies, and fight amongst themselves instead of unifying to fight against South African whites. He used that part of his name, and those of his fellow black siblings, to build a black pride where there had been none before, so downtrodden were they.
    For anyone interested, the book BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS IN SOUTH AFRICA will give you enough information about Mr. BIKO and how he worked to see why, for me, and huge numbers of Black People in South Africa, Stephen Bantu Biko’s name should be at the very top of the fight for freedom there. He was assassinated in 1977 by the South African Police Special Forces, but the work he started spread until Apartheid fell in the early 1990s. I have only three real heroes in life, Stephen Bantu Biko is one of them. The others are Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Please note, there is not one white man amongst them.

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  7. For those with peaceful and selfless inclinations, Dr. King and the many others you listed–from Harriet Tubman to James Meredith–are heroes. For those with hostile and selfish inclinations, they are enemies whose names and legacies should be replaced by the likes of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Donald J. Trump. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I have almost no hope for this nation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, I share your feelings of despair for the future of this nation, Jerry. We seem, on the whole, to have lost sight of what’s truly important and instead focus on ‘personal happiness’ instead of the health and welfare of all. These days, I’m rather glad I’m old and likely won’t live to see the demolition of what was once a pretty decent country to live in.


    • I hope so too, but it seems that we are running out of time and if people are going to turn our current reality into the world MLK dreamed of, we better move a bit faster. Sigh.
      Cwtch annnnndddd … HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! 🎈🎈🎈

      Liked by 1 person

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