As a child in the 1950-60s I vividly remember watching the civil rights protest demonstrations on
I recall distinctly thinking that the actions of Dr. King and his followers, particularly those of
the children and young adults—were revolutionary. At the same time, I questioned my own courage.
Would I be willing to sacrifice as those who subjected themselves to torture, jail and beyond for Dr.King’s revolution?
This test led me to a leadership role of the Dr. MLK Celebration Committee. Whether I will pass or not, I believe it to be my calling to ensure that the MLKCC organization remains focused on its mission
– to promote the legacy of Dr. King.
Somewhere in the context of current non-violent protests i.e., NFL kneeling; the Women’s Resist Movement and most illustrative, Black voter activism – looms the shadow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
His holiday, January 15 th , is our one official day to pay him homage.
It is in this context and all that is happening now, including the increase in hate crimes and the racial polarization of American society that Dr. King permeates the protest psychic. Make no mistake, Dr. King was a revolutionary. As aggressive as Malcom X; as nationalistic as Stokely Carmichael; yet he was committed to the non-violent Gandhi-style of protest and civil disobedience.
While his practicing philosophy “I am willing to let you kick my ass and spit in my face” does not play today – make no mistake Dr. King’s actions and leadership in the 1960’s and 1970’s had as much impact on our nation as General George Washington or even President Abraham Lincoln.
The sheer fact that the King Holiday is the only American federal holiday that recognizes “moral” leadership is reason itself to give all of American society pause to reflect not only on his influence (legacy) but his influence moving forward.His influence should still the illuminate the protest discourse today.
My reflections on Dr. King in 2018 are beyond the relatively safe underpinning of his “moral leadership.” My reflections are focused on Dr. King– the political revolutionary.
It became eminently visible “in the afterglow of the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-to- Montgomery march. Dr. King had become a pillar of fire, rejecting the course of political moderation and social reform that had made him palatable to white leaders and a hero to African Americans.
King’s final years found him linking the struggle for racial justice to a wider crusade to end war and poverty.
Tellingly, his comprehensive approach, which focused on changing America’s foreign and domestic policies as well as hearts and minds, found him under attack by critics who claimed that he was in over his head on the subject of Vietnam,”
Peniel E. Joseph wrote in his piece “MLK’s Radicalism Speaks to Contemporary
Protest” published in the April 2015 issue of The Roots Magazine.
Today, Dr. King’s legacy as a non-violent revolutionary is more useful in our struggle than hismoral leadership platform. As a culturally progressive voting bloc in American democracy, we need to call on Dr. King’s revolutionary spirit to shape our courageous protests, whether at the voter booths, in the streets or on media-saturated athletic fields. And we need to appropriately celebrate and honor Dr.King’s true legacy and teach it to our children. It is the only cure for this county’s deep-seated racial divide.
Join the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee in the 2018 King Holiday Celebration with a non-violent revolutionary spirit and let’s honor the true revolutionary legacy of Dr. King.
Wayne L. Alexander, MLKCC Board Chair