Where We Go with Dr. King in 2016

By: Chase Encalade

Since 2000, the third Monday of January has been observed as Martin Luther King Jr. day in the U.S. Like most federal holidays, many of us only see this day as a well needed break from school and work; but in reality it’s so much more. While this day honors the life and legacy of a prolific man, it also demands that we step back and reflect on how his vision of equality and union in the U.S. has been fulfilled and where it has yet to come to pass. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia during the Jim Crow Era. Most can agree that the state of our country’s race relations is much better today than during that time. Black Americans can be found in well-respected positions as lawyers, doctors, and even members of Congress. We have collectively taken a large step forward toward a more racially equal society that advocates for equal opportunity among all races, not just the majority. So why do we still celebrate the man behind so much of the Civil Rights Movement in 2016? Personally, I believe that Martin Luther King Jr. is not done speaking to us, and that he has more to say than “I have a dream.”

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be rewarding

To actively change what is around us, we must first leave our comfort zones behind. Nothing worth having is accomplished while living in the joys of comfort. If Dr. King chose to pursue a comfortable life as a minister, professor, public speaker or businessman, his life would have gone much differently. Instead, Dr. King ended up spending more time in a jail cell than any of us would like to think about. He was arrested upwards of 25 times during his short life (and I doubt those jail cells were anything but uncomfortable). Still, we find him back there again and again.

To achieve the unthinkable we must leave the places we know.

The reason is simple: in order for us to bring about real change in the world, whether large scale or small scale, we must do things we’ve never done and go places we’ve never gone before. In Letter from a Birmingham Jail King speaks of how he was called to Birmingham and other places because of the injustice that he heard about there. He felt that he must bring his message of equality “far beyond the boundaries of his hometown.” With this message he also rallied thousands of other activists to the civil rights cause and ignited the crusade for equality that we read about in our history books today. But it all started with leaving his home, his wife, his children, and all his comforts, behind.

Not everyone will believe in your dream

Dr. King faced backlash from more places and peoples that he could have ever imagined. His nonviolent approach was challenged by government officials, the President, and others like Malcolm X who pushed for coalitions like the Black Nationalism movement, which he believed should be achieved “by any means necessary.” When asked about King’s philosophy of non-violence Malcom X said, “He got the peace prize, we got the problem.” 

Conversely, the government actively enacted laws that Dr. King had tried to tear down throughout his life. When marching from Selma to Montgomery, King and his protestors were beaten and nearly killed in an attempt to discourage their march. Through these sources of opposition, Dr. King saw just how important it was to be self-assured in your vision. While he was never completely certain that he would be alive to see his vision come to fruition, he was assured that others who came after him would experience the benefits; and that gave him hope. 

Others won’t always see the bigger picture, but you must still move forward. Those around you may not think your fight is worth it, but you must make the decision to keep fighting. Dr. King was willing to do anything to see his dream come true, and even though his time was cut short, I have no doubt that he would’ve pressed on in his work until he saw equality in the U.S. Death was certainly not the end goal, “But if physical death is the price that some must pay, to free their children from a permanent psychological death, then nothing shall be more redemptive.”

None of us are free until all of us are free

On January 14th CBU was graced with the presence of Rev. Virzola Law as the guest speaker for a commemoration of Dr. King’s life and legacy. During her speech, she repeatedly sought to remind the audience: “our humanity unites us.” Though simple, this mantra seems to be forgotten in our society, and we’ve become blind to the needs of our fellow humans. Andrew Ramano of Newsweek speaks of how “For more than two centuries, Americans have gotten away with not knowing much about the world around them. But times have changed.” We don’t know or seem to care about the troubles that plague the world outside our borders. Dr. King did not just fight for the voting and political rights of blacks, but also the poor and marginalized. In fact, he was assassinated while taking up the struggle for the rights of sanitation workers in Memphis Tennessee, who were not being given safe working conditions at the time. Dr. King understood that “No one is free until we are all free” and that equality means nothing if it is not for all people.

You are enough

Renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has”. The Civil Rights movement started out as a grassroots movement from the local communities of the South. However, with leadership from Dr. King and others, its impact reverberated around the country. Dr. King took the movement from Alabama and Georgia all the way up to Washington D.C. He successfully led 200,000 people to the Washington Monument to protest against the civil and economic inequalities plaguing Black Americans. He managed to sway attitudes with his non-violent tactics and because of his leadership role in the Civil Rights movement, King received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Rev. Law with Students at the Jan. 14 Event

Rev. Law’s credo, “You are enough to take the community to the next level,” is something that we find evident throughout the discourse of Dr. King time and again. In We Shall Overcome he boldly states: “This will be a great America! We will be the participants in making it so. So as I leave you this evening I say, walk together children! Don't you get weary!”

He knew that a change had to be made and chose to personify that change. You have the power within you to bring about real worldwide change. It starts with the smallest things. All it takes is being active instead of passive. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking the time out of your day to speak to someone you don’t know and truly listen to what they have to say. If you notice bigotry, share truth. If you find hatred, spread love. Lastly, if you see injustice, point it out. After all, in the words of the late Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. 

Chase Encalade is a Sophomore at Christian Brothers University and a staff writer at the Galleon.

Posted by Josh Colfer at 4:54 PM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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