Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. (Courtesy photo)

Tuesday, Jan. 15 marked what would have been the 90th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., born 1929 in Atlanta. His early emergence as a preacher and swift ascension to the pinnacle of America’s historical and non-violent civil rights movement serves as a fantastic story of persistence, commitment, fearlessness, faith and, most importantly, love. What he stood for and spoke passionately about convinced a nation of Blacks and Whites to engage with him in acts of civil disobedience to gain justice, freedom, and equality. Even more, he led us to believe that the “aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community.”

Sadly, Dr. King’s life ended tragically and far too soon due to an assassin’s bullet — King just 39 years of age. But the movement continued as the doors of opportunity he helped to open allowed an influx of Blacks to enter with new, fresh opportunities. That was King’s vision and hope for America: that Black men, women, and children would have access to new roads and dreams, judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Fifty-one years later, King’s hope for America and its place in the world has slipped backward and the great leaders who emerged both before and immediately after his death, have faded away. Still, the struggle continues and if he were still alive, sadly, he could easily pick right up where he left off in 1968 — planning a march for the nation’s poor in Washington, D.C., supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, disgruntled teachers on pickets lines in L.A., or farmers in Virginia, along with so many others, all demanding higher wages and better treatment.

Dr. King would take on Donald Trump and castigate him for his divisive, isolationist, sexist and racist policies. Then, he’d attempt to lead him to a moral high road, as he did in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the city’s police commissioner, Bull Conner, quoting the poet T.S. Eliot: “There is no greater treason than to do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

But would Trump understand? Probably not. Nonetheless, Dr. King would most assuredly have persisted.

Dr. King may no longer be with us, but his words remain instructive. He reminds us that the struggle for freedom, equality and justice never end. As he told a collective of coeds, no matter their career choices, becoming a “dedicated fighter for civil rights” must be similarly pursued.

“Make it a central part of your life,” King said. “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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