So we will be celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today. I think many of you already know about this prominent American figure, but for those of you who don't this quote from the Nobel Prize website
says it all: "In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement....In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world...he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream", he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times." He was assassinated while inside a Memphis TN hotel in 1968.
The designation of the third Monday in January as a national observance for him (even though the drive for a national King holiday began in the 1970's) was made federal law in 1983. So how is the world different in 2012 than in 1960? Well looking at life in the United States one couldn't imagine going into a business, or public place and seeing 3 bathrooms; one for men, women, and coloreds. Could you imagine driving into a town looking for a hotel room to sleep in for the night and the colored hotels are full, even though the regular ones have numerous vacancies? Could you imagine taking one of your business clients to lunch at an establishment and you can't get in because no Negroes are allowed? To the younger folks out there King helped to make it cool to say "You know what? This is bull#@*$, I just can't accept what something is because someone else says so. This thing ain't right, its hurting me and my family physically, and emotionally. It's time to do what we gotta do to change it." This generation knows nothing of what that type of life is like because someone (or some ones) got off their butts, made moves, organized, and came up with (working within the real life confines of that time) a logical plan to create change.
In King's case and in many others, the organizers behind the movement had passion by default to battle whatever is was they did battle with. Passion by default, because it was do or die time, sudden death, win or go home, a life or death situation. The wrong or harmful act practiced against them affected their literal lives. The deck was stacked against them by people in power and they simply had no other choice but to push back. Passion by default, this is the real essence of organizing or social justice, that thing that often times goes silently unnoticed in the midst of all the hype. Why is she so gung ho about LGBT rights? Why is he all up in arms for better public schools? Why are they so concerned about animal rights? Why do they give a damn about weatherization? Why is what goes on in Burma their business? What does it matter to them that a person needs a living wage job? It's that passion by default, 9 times out of 10, the person(s) leading the way are in a sudden death type of situation, they have a personal connection with the issue.
So in 2012 we have King's example and many others to choose from, as models of how citizens have changed the legal and social rules to make everyday life better for themselves. This is no do gooder philosophy, his tactics and techniques have a proven historical track record of generating results. Many have incorporated King's ways (although he borrowed from others) of dealing with societal problems into their strategies. So where we go from here depends on us. The world as it is now is by no means a utopia. Racism (of many types), discrimination (on many levels), hunger, despair, environmental destruction, imperfections exist of which there are numerous types. The battles are many, one can take their pick. We have to first recognize the passion for change inside us individually (what we do, why we do it, and is it right?). After that, it'll be easier to recognize this same passion aback of everyone else. If we can do that and not destroy ourselves as a civilization in the process of change making, then children generations from now will know a better world.
Posted on Mon, January 16, 2012