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Martin Luther King, Jr. is central to black voice. The mid-60s Civil Rights Movement was only one culmination of several before and after King. Looking back and forward, King’s contribution to black life cannot be overemphasized. Understandably, marches, rallying efforts, protests and speeches all still echo deep in America’s conscience. The “Dream” King had in a historic march in Washington is, indeed, an enduring evidence in modern memory of King’s impact as a moral and political leader.
This dream is not, however, one which marks an end by realizing one or a few remarkable achievements but a start. The interpretation by many that Obama’s election as president in 2008 is a “final” realization of King’s dream falls short of his dream. The series of arrests, harassments and shootings by police of young black men in recent years is only an evidence of how King’s dream is far from being achieved. Today, America’s black communities unite and organize, inspired by King’s legacy, in a plethora of community, state and federal associations and movements including most notably Black Lives Matter.
The echoes of King’s marches, protests and civil disobedience acts are reverberating in and beyond America. The calls for racial equality, social justice and public peace are all important and enduring calls of considerable impact now. In hindsight, King’s contribution to America’s Civil Rights Movement is less about liberation of blacks only but for all mankind. The universality of King’s legacy is one which continues to inspire for at least four main components: (1) non-violent action, (2) civil rights, (3) liberation and (4) integration.
For non-violent action component, King always emphasized peaceful marches to achieve black community’s political, economic and social goals. Inspired by Gandhi’s pacifism credo, King led thousands of black and non-black marchers across America to call for racial equality and social justice. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act are pre-eminent outcomes of King’s peaceful but pressing calls for social justice and racial equality, respectively (“About Dr. King,” n.d.). Today, social movements, including Black Lives Matter, builds on King’s legacy of pacifism by highlighting police brutality against nonviolent black men and women.
For civil rights, Kings always emphasized social justice for all. The appeal of King’s marches and speeches are attributed, in part, to a universality in King’s messages. By not limiting his struggle to black communities in America, King emerged to international recognition as a liberator and inspirer to all marginalized groups, particularly ethnic minorities.
For liberation, King clearly continued his predecessors’ struggle for liberation. Symbolical as is, King’ “I Have a Dream speech” was in front of Abraham Lincoln’s, America’s Great Liberator’s, statue. The liberation of America’s black people is well-documented. The singularity of King’s liberation is his ability to inspire early 21st century black and nonblack activists. Indeed, King’s messages reverberate strongly in Black Live Movement’s literature:
We are expansive. We are a collective of liberators who believe in an inclusive and spacious movement. We also believe that in order to win and bring as many people with us along the way, we must move beyond the narrow nationalism that is all too prevalent in Black communities. We must ensure we are building a movement that brings all of us to the front [emphasis added]. (“About,” n.d.)
The act liberation is, accordingly, one for all humankind, and not for black communities alone.
For integration, King’s struggles was nothing but an enduring call for equality. The loud and clear message King (and his successors) always made is: social justice for all marginalized groups and racial equality for all ethnic minorities – all to one ultimate aim: full integration into broader society. In hindsight, King’s legacy can be noted in a plethora of grassroots, state and federal movements of all hues calling for social justice for all in an increasingly divided America.
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