The celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work is important, but every year I wonder why the celebrations are so tepid. I can’t help but have misgivings on how both our nation and the heirs to the struggle for social justice are failing to properly honor Dr. King. If we do not step up and make this holiday a worthy celebration, it will not be too long before we celebrate with King Day automobile sales.
I am more culpable for this failure than most. I make my living as a community organizer; I help people learn how to fight to improve their lives. The only thing written on my calendar for January 16th, 2006 was “holiday–day off.” The United States has decided to honor a man who sacrificed his life to promote mass non-violent direct action. THIS IS OUR HOLIDAY!
Sleazy landlords, greedy businessmen, absentee politicians–all of the people who are obstacles to establishing the “beloved community”–need to tremble at the approach of the second Monday in January. Our enemies need to feel the power of mass non-violent direct action at their doorsteps. We all have seen the t-shirts with the Frederick Douglass quote: “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t wear a t-shirt, he hit the streets. He brought with him thousands of oppressed people. We need to honor the greatest of modern organizers by putting his beliefs into practice. What better way to honor Dr. King’s life and work than by organizing a protest?
Taylor Branch’s editorial in the New York Times titled Globalizing King’s Legacy hit on another aspect of the celebrations of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that disturbs me. Dr. King wasn’t just the leader of the 1950’s-60’s civil rights movement, he was the most eloquent and perceptive spokeman for peace, justice and democracy of the 20th century. Dr. King spoke for all of us, he should not be relegated to one issue at one point in our country’s history. His writings and speeches still speak to us today, as our nation goes down the same path of attempting to bring democracy to foreign lands by military means.