Thursday January 15th marks what would have been the 86th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Think about this, he’s been gone from the earth longer than he was on it. He only lived 39 years (the very age I am now), and he was shot and killed in April of 1968, so a whole generation of people( like me), never saw him alive.
But his legacy is immeasurably large, you have the current film Selma, documenting that historic march. You have people more aware of civil rights and with the recent police killings of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and many others, people have taken to the streets just as Dr. King would have.
But its the violence we still see (especially in our urban communities), the wars that are still fought, the injustices that still live on, it shows the work of civil rights is never done.
Dr. King also fought for workers rights, he died in Memphis Tennessee while marching and fighting for the rights of the local sanitation workers. He was also against the war in Vietnam.
Dr. King knew civil rights was way more than the simply injustice of a black person, it was housing issues (hence why he was here in Chicago in 1966 and had a apartment on the west side), it was being able to work, eat a meal and live without prejudice or discrimination.
Many people wonder (myself included), what Dr. King would think of our world today?
How would he react?
What would he want us to do?
I think most of us can agree we have made some progress but have a long way to go.
His legacy was one of non violence but not to back down, to stand up for what is right and to get laws passed so that would could treated as equals. The civil rights legislation of 1964 & 65 is the greatest testament to his work.
Not to mention the following generation of those of us who did not have to live under the segregation and oppression of our ancestors. That we currently have a black president serving his second term and there have been two black governors and many black mayors. Even more so were those of us who weren’t even born during the civil rights struggle and we have a much better world of opportunities, education and that does not resemble “separate but equal”.
I think of my elders from Louisiana, Texas and Kentucky who came here to Chicago for a better life and to flee “Jim Crow” and the harsh life so many black people endured. Dr. King marched, preached and worked tirelessly so that life was not just better for those down south but that the walls of segregation would come down.
I often think of those pioneers who broke down barriers like my late father who was in the US Navy while Dr. King was putting the civil rights struggle on the national forefront. My father was a diesel engineer in the Navy (which had only been desegregated a little more than ten years prior), and what he endured.
I am beyond grateful for the sacrifices Dr. King made and his efforts to make the world a better place even through he didn’t get to see it.
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Filed under: African American History