Many of you who know me know that I have made the work and words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. an integral part of all of my work for the past 40 years as a fighter for freedom, justice and equality for African American people and all oppressed and discriminated people in the Twin Cities, throughout Minnesota and the country.
As with all his work, Dr. King was always teaching life lessons, not just life lessons for all the injustices in the ’50s and ’60s, but injustices that are taking place in 2014 that are reminiscent of Emmett Till, with the tragic deaths in New York City of Eric Garner, in Cleveland with 12-year-old Tamir Rice and in Ferguson, Missouri with Michael Brown. We have had thousands of young Black men shot or murdered in the streets of urban America for the past three decades with little community outcry, including the streets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
So many people from all races ask the question, “Why march?” How can we have a civilized country when young Black men are being murdered in our streets by police officers sworn to protect and serve us, and by the hands of other young Black men?
There is no sense of real community when we continue to have the haves and have nots in our society. There will be no mutually cooperative or voluntary ventures of man or woman if we do not take responsibility for the condition of our people today.
Did slavery really happen? Did the civil/human rights movement really happen? Do we believe we are responsible for our brothers and sisters?
I believe those that march, those that protest and those that who say no to any form of oppression, racism or discrimination are in full agreement with Dr. King. My favorite King quote is so true about what is going on in urban America: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
How many of us have called ourselves friends but have been silent? Man is a social creature, thus making each and every one a societal creature. Statements like “I can’t breathe” or “Black lives matter” are societal issues and concerns that Dr. King would have been in forefront of. He would have felt as a Black leader that protecting all African Americans was his responsibility, and thus it is mine.