Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King National Birthday Holiday

Today is the Martin Luther King's National Birthday celebration. It marks the 45th anniversary of the renown civil rights leader's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. Many people don't realize he was in Memphis to support the striking black sanitation workers' right to form a union. While his speech, "I have a Dream," resonates with all of us on his hopes for a more integrated society, he was also a staunch critic of the Vietnam War and was in the early stages to start the Poor People's movement, a symbolic rally to end poverty in America. He had other policy aspirations that would further advanced the civil rights struggle across the country. Many Americans, not suprisingly, at the time opposed his controversial views on human rights and thought he was a unpatriotic troublemaker.

Sadly, American society today has somewhat lost the true meaning of his message. What we celebrate today is oversimplified and sterile. He did not just have a dream for racial integration for his all children; he pushed a national agenda for progressive change to end social and economic inequality in America. The anti-war and anti-poverty demonstrations were among his activities but he had greater goals as a pastor and community organizer. King adopted Gandhi's theory of nonviolence as a potential tool to advance the civil rights struggle and bring about radical social change globally. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he shifted his focus to address human rights for everyone. It was not limited to just race or skin tone as the news media wants us to believe. He supported the redistribution of wealth and power in America to help the poor, the sick and the disabled. His life was cut short when an assassin's bullet killed him before he could truly fulfill his dreams.

CNN has an excellent short biography about Dr. King. If you are a teacher, this article is another great resource to ask students in grades 6-12 and college questions about his legacy. Oprah also expresses how Martin Luther King, Jr. changed her own life in this story.

No comments:

Post a Comment