On the occasion of a memorial service for Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1972, one of his mentors, Dr. Gardner Taylor, said that it would take at least fifty years to begin to assess the impact that Dr. King’s life has had upon America. Taylor’s observation has proven to be eerie in its accuracy. For strangely, in the midst of all of the unrest and division in our state and nation, Wednesday April 4th is that day.
I recall from my youth a lot more reflection on the date of Dr. King’s death. And I remember annually hearing the replay of his powerful and unsettling closing words the evening before, that revealed his keen awareness that he was living in his final days.
However, with the creation of the King Holiday around the day of his birth, the focus shifted away from King’s ultimate sacrifice, and a sanitized version of King was constructed. And the reconstructed King that most people celebrate today was little more than a utopian dreamer who merely wanted everybody to get along and sing “free at last,” even while they still remained in bondage.
But the real Martin Luther King made many people uncomfortable. He bemoaned the fact that integration was not achieving the results that he hoped for, as he feared that he “may have integrated (his) people into a burning house.” He vehemently spoke out against the Vietnam War and the motivation of the military industry to keep America in perpetual conflict. The real King spoke truth to those in power and took action against those who put profits ahead of the lives of people. The real King realized that the only way for America to live up to what it claimed to be was for people to come together for the benefit of all. He disrupted the racist status quo and made strides toward disrupting economic injustice, as well. And fighting the good fight on these fronts is what got Dr. King killed. We must never forget that fact. But yet, we don’t talk about it very much anymore.
Mainstream society has become quite comfortable with honoring the reconstructed King on his birthday, because it does not require us to focus on the fact that he died trying to help people live better lives. Many of our King Day events have become so polite that even those committing the offenses that King would condemn can attend and leave feeling like they have done their part in the fight for social justice for another year. And virtually every King Day march is nothing more than a commemoration, not directed toward tangibly accomplishing anything. Undoubtedly, this would grieve King deeply. For he never organized a march that was not intended to produce a significant outcome.
Additionally, the space that we have annually reserved for furthering King’s legacy has become a day of convenience. We show up because our offices are closed and our children are already out of school. Therefore, participation in King Holiday observances doesn’t cost us anything, which seems like a grossly inadequate way to remember a man whose commitment costed him everything.
There is a march in Frankfort on Wednesday. For some, it doesn’t come at a convenient time. For it comes on a day that is a work day for some and the middle of Spring Break for others. The program that will follow the March is designed to amplify the collective voice of the people on issues such as labor, education, state pensions, healthcare, payday lending, voting rights and safe thriving communities. The objective of the day is for everyone who comes to the march to leave more engaged in the battle for social justice and democracy than they were when they came. And there will be organizations on hand to help every marcher achieve that goal. So, much like Dr. King’s work, this march does not intend to make people feel comfortable. Rather, it is designed to challenge us to be better and to demand more from those that we have elected to represent our interests.
In his last speech, on the evening before his last day, Dr. King concluded, “I might not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to The Promised Land.”
But in order for us to get there we have to come together to do better. And that is what The MLK Memorial March To Move is designed to do.
Date and Time – Wednesday April 4, 2018 at 1:30PMLineup Location – 3rd and Capital Avenue in Frankfort, KYMarch Route – 3rd and Capital Avenue to the steps of the KY State Capitol (about 5 blocks)March Program – 2:15PM at the KY State Capitol Steps