MLK Holiday: His Dream Is Still A Work In Progress
January 13, 2015
Martin Luther King's dream is in a constant state of evolution. It is the independent moderate thinker with the power to continuously keep things moving forward in this country. Beware of zealots on the left or right who only want things their way. Dr. King was one of those moderates who could see the whole picture as he strived towards equality for Blacks and the coming together of all people for the common good.
This year's Golden Globe award for the Best Original Song for a Motion Picture was "Glory" from the movie Selma; music and lyrics were by John Legend and Common. The movie depicts Dr. King and the various particulars leading up to the historic march in Selma. I thought Common's backstage answer to a press question summed up Dr. King, the 60's civil rights movement, and the reasons why the MLK holiday means so much to many Americans trying to keep things moving forward.
Common said, "Being able to be a part of this film actually opened me up to a lot of things. I didn't know there was multi-culture -- black and white, and different people from religious backgrounds and sexual orientation who came in with part of the civil rights movement. That opened my mind up, obviously getting to see what happens. Right now in the present day, you see people coming from different backgrounds. No matter what color, they want justice and humanity. They care for the individual whether it is a young black kid, Latino, Asian, Jewish, or white person, it's all love. Basically the expansion is basically saying we all have to do this together. We have to come to an understanding and respect each other. I know it sounds basic and simple, but when put into practice it works."
The creation of a national MLK Day was a matter of patience and perseverance. It took 15 years to create the federal holiday. The first year it was celebrated was in 1986 -- and only about half the states observed the holiday. In King's hometown of Atlanta, boxing promoter Don King celebrated the new holiday and the civil rights leader with a highly promoted fight. Ironic considering Dr. King dedicated his life to nonviolence.
As opposed to becoming commercialized the way Presidents Day has, MLK Day has organically grown into a day of service for many Americans. Dr. King once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"
Last year, people in all 50 states delivered meals, refurbished schools, community centers, and collected food & clothing. Volunteers also recruited mentors, supported job-seekers, built homes, provided various services for veterans and military families, and helped others with improving their financial literacy skills.
As various events begin this week commemorating Dr. King and his legacy, on Monday, January 19th, thousands of Americans of all races will spend parts of the King holiday volunteering for community service projects.
Yes, it took years to create the holiday, but it took a few more for the MLK holiday to officially take hold in all 50 states.
How It All Started
Current dean of the House of Representatives, John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, first introduced legislation to establish a holiday honoring King four days after he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. Conyers and the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Democrat of New York, resubmitted King holiday legislation each subsequent legislative session. In 1983, Congress approved the holiday, after ugly opposition in the Senate from Jesse Helms.
The North Carolina Republican filibustered, charging that King was a Marxist who had Communist connections. Helms distributed 300 pages of documents, which Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York famously threw to the Senate floor, stomped on and called "a packet of filth."
Finally Signed Into Federal Law But....
On Nov. 2nd, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill making the third Monday in January the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, starting in 1986. In 1999 New Hampshire changed the name of Civil Rights Day to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, making it the 50th state to observe the holiday.
Some Southern Adaptations
In 2000, South Carolina became the last state to make MLK Day a paid holiday for all state employees. Until then, state workers could choose between celebrating it or one of three Confederate-related recognized days.
Even today, a few Southern states still observe the holiday in different ways. For years, Virginia celebrated King and Confederates General Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on the same day. In 2000, the state legislature separated the holidays. Virginia state offices now are closed for MLK holiday on the third Monday in January and Lee & Jackson on the preceding Friday. Alabama still celebrates Confederate hero General Lee and Dr. King on the same day.
MLK Holiday Reminder
Looking back at the memory of Martin Luther King should be used as a reminder to keep things in perspective and serve as a path forward for diversity. Too many take a dim view of reviewing harsh realities of the past; it is not intended to create hate. Knowing the past and the increments of progression accomplished is a testament that justice and equality for all is an ongoing process. Dealing with historical reality is not race baiting; it's a matter of staying on course for a stronger nation.
Most Americans use the MLK holiday to accept the positives but also remember the daily struggles to keep change moving forward. I have always laughed to myself whenever I hear politicians and media use the term "minorities and the poor" -- the latter referring to whites. The basics of what Dr. King stood for directly affected an entire race, but today his beliefs have a more far reaching effect on our society as a whole. Dr. King peacefully fought against double standards which persist in some institutional ways.
Dr. King Probably Would Have Agreed
Recently Sports Legend and always socially conscious Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made a statement which depicts the reality of what all Americans hope for. Jabbar said, "The Los Angeles Times referred to the New York City protests as anti-police marches which is grossly inaccurate and illustrates the problem of perception the protestors are battling. The marches are meant to raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings. Police are not under attack; institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training and bad officials who blindly protect them are the enemy. Any institution worth saving should want to eliminate them, too."
Jabbar's quote is the essence of The MLK Holiday in terms of human equality for all. Kareem's words started me thinking about all the marches and events Dr. King participated in. Martin Luther King's words touched many, therefore I thought this year it would be great to share some quotes from Dr. King's memoirs, books, speeches, periodicals, and sermons, covering a variety of his concerns and topics.
Some Of Dr. King's Quotes
There is a wonderful website, 'Goodreads' which is one of the world's largest sites for readers and book recommendations. It also happens to have a huge collection of popular quotes. I have listed many of Dr. King's quotes below.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
"Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase."
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward."
"I have decided to stick to love ... Hate is too great a burden to bear."
"Let no man pull you so low as to hate him."
"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right."
"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
"Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education."
"Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
"A man who won't die for something is not fit to live."
"No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for."
"Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others."
"Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude."
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."
"There comes a time when silence is betrayal."
"Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can't stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they'll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That's love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There's something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from "Loving Your Enemies")"
"I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls."
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
"Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."
"We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
"Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals."
"People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other."
"No person has the right to rain on your dreams."
"Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows."
Here is the link where you can find more of Dr. King's quotes and links of works from where many originated: