After watching this weekends activities and coverage of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and national holiday, it was absolutely painful to watch all the coverage of commercial business sales, socials, parties, and the overriding theme that celebrating Rev. Dr. King were through symbolic public service projects versus a national day for voter registration or current direct action campaign on todays issues as Rev. Dr. King was best known for during his own lifes work. Rev. Dr. King’s life was his non violent direct action to change social, public and political policies, versus community service projects.
Many of our OWN Black leaders, public, elected and civic officials, progressive thinkers and writers are responsible for the wrong image, positioning and direction of Rev. Dr. King’s legacy and we collectively watch mainstream media and others consistently re-write and weaken the substance of legacy of Rev. Dr. King.
We have allowed Rev. Dr. King’s annual birthday and national holiday legacy to be defined much weaker than what Dr. King’s life work actually represented. The accomplishments in Rev. Dr. King’s life were designated because of his community organizing around issues that were met with direct action political organizing and yet now we have come to celebrate his birthday and life with commercial business sales, parties, local community service projects and so many things other than his direct action political and economic empowerment organizing.
As a former national staff member to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr, he and other former staff and other key supporters of Rev. Dr. King taught me and other next generation civil rights leaders how Rev. Dr. King’s last birthday on earth was spent organizing a direct action political campaign for jobs for poor people, and while it is fresh in your mind, how much coverage did you see this weekend of local events replicating his march for jobs for poor people? Chicago and Illinois witnessed the largest loss of poor people’s jobs on Dr. Kings birthday and the mainstream media as well as many Black and progressive media paid almost NO ATTENTION to a “next generation” of civil rights leaders leading two days of poor people’s marches and press conference on Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn to save the remaining thousands of poor people in Chicago and Illinois from this massive job layoff from The “Put Illinois To Work Program” on King’s birthday!!
Now lets also look at Rev. Dr. King’s other final acts of his life that was also ignored on his birthday and national holiday. After achieving the political victories of the Voting Rights Act, Public Accommodations Bills and other political victories, Rev. Dr. King began to shift his focus to grassroots economic empowerment, starting with his new national headquarters in 1966 he started in Chicago called Operation Breadbasket designed to start a national campaign of consumer education to build Black businesses and keeping access to capital in Black and poor communities, and yet during this past week how many economic empowerment activities were highlighted to reflect todays commitment to Dr. King’s last organizing projects of Operation Breadbasket??
Once again in Chicago for example, the former Drexel and Independence Banks, two major financial institutions once owned by former SCLC staff and supporters of Dr. King were recently bought by Shorebank and then taken over by Urban Partnership Banks and then announced that they would be closing in the very core communities that Dr. King’s organization worked while in Chicago and again, the local demonstrations to save those institutions were ignored by mainstream as well as most Black press and leaders as well.
I heard some comments this weekend from DR. Vincent Harding, a former speechwriter and confidante for Rev. Dr. King say to the St. Sabina crowd that King must NOT be celebrated for his “dreams” but for the work of his direct ACTIONS, but while thousands of those in the audience cheered that statement, it is not what we witnessed during this weekends King commemorations. The direct action organizing events in honor of Rev. Dr. King we all but ignored or reported in favor of the direction of people to celebrate with a community service project.
A lot of Black leaders and our Black and progressive thinkers and writers have to look within as to how we have allowed Rev. Dr. King’s legacy to be re-defined and weakened each year right before our eyes, and apparently with our consent.