On this day, 53 years ago, Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down. A day earlier, he delivered the last sermon of his life. Standing before a crowd of striking sanitation workers at the young age of 39, he delivered his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. He wouldn’t accept the empty promises and platitudes and institutional racism from the United States and state governments.
For the soul of our nation, he was the right person for the time. To the masses of white supremacists, he was a threat to their ways of life. Too radical. Too disruptive.
We are a week deep into the trial of Derek Chauvin, but many view the United States as the real defendant in this case. And we are just three months into a new Democrat-led political era, and the Whitelash from state legislatures is shaking the nation and putting civil rights organizations on high-alert. It’s hard not to wonder what the late reverend would have said about this new Jim Crow-era.
Bernice King renews calls to fight voter suppression
Luckily his daughter, Bernice King, has taken to Twitter to put folks on notice. She made it clear – if you’re evoking her father’s name, you better be speaking out about the injustices Black and Brown folks are facing today.
Bernice King tweeted today, “As you tweet about my father today, know that he organized and protested against #voter #suppression and believed that the ballot box is on the path to justice and freedom. Standing against voter suppression is one great way to honor him today. ‘Let us march on ballot boxes!'”
King’s final speech is sure to ignite new motivation for those in the fight for justice and equity. In Oklahoma, the state legislature is rushing through legislation to decriminalize vehicular assault or manslaughter committed against protestors. And in Georgia, the Republican-controlled state legislature and Governor Brian Kemp have just enshrined a new wave of voter suppression into the state’s election laws. Georgia activists may have listened to King’s final speech for inspiration on how to push back.
Dr. King’s final speech mirrors today’s battle
Recently, activists called for massive economic pressure to be put on large corporations headquartered in Georgia who have made political donations to lawmakers who support the law.
In Dr. King’s last speech in 1968, he called on the strikers to “always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal.”
He powerfully continued, “we don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores and to these massive industries in this country. And say, God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we come by here to ask you, to make the first item on your agenda ‘fair treatment’ where God’s children are concerned. Now if you’re not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you! And so as a result of this we are asking you tonight to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis.”
Early Sunday afternoon, King’s namesake Martin Luther King III tweeted, “My father asked, ‘Where do we go from here: chaos or community?’ I believe humankind will choose community. Today, and everyday, we must choose community. #MLK53”.
We hope you will all reflect and find a way to be a drum major for justice.