As the world honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is imperative that we acknowledge that he was not always loved. History has taught us that revolutionaries who sacrificed during the movement were vilified, not appreciated. Though he was faced with immeasurable odds, he persevered.
“Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle,” said Dr. King. Despite the imminent level of danger, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led eight peaceful protests: the Montgomery Bus Boycott; the Albany Movement; the Birmingham Campaign; the March on Washington; Bloody Sunday; Chicago; the Vietnam War; and the Poor People’s Campaign. His tactics of disruption were not appreciated during his day, however, his legacy lives on.
King said, “A social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution.” He was aware that the people needed to believe that the methods implied would work to change policies and procedures of racist institutions. He was a peaceful protester — a strategy deemed unwise by many. He was led by faith, not by critics.
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus,” said King. His unwavering determination to free those designated to the bottom rungs of society was not applauded, but he continued to protest anyway.
While protesting was frowned upon as a radical act by many in the South, he understood that it was necessary to prevent the oppressed from using violence against the oppressor.
“Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention,” Dr. King’s brilliance deserves the uttermost acknowledgement. However, Dr. King’s selfless leadership would cause one to ask the question, “Would Dr. King want us to honor his name and legacy or utilize his strategies employed to tear down White supremacy?”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a holiday and can be seen as a day of freedom from oppressive systems, but it is Dr. King who taught us that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Due to numerous protests, the media narrative was that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a troublemaker. According to Tanehisi Coates, “Martin Luther King, Jr. was a criminal in the eyes of the highest powers. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations signed off on the bugging of his home.” Nevertheless, he continued to test the boundaries of his dreams. His quest to tear down White supremacy would not be stifled by threats of arrest or physical violence.
“The pen of the Great Emancipator had moved the Negro into the sunlight of physical freedom, but actual conditions had left him behind in the shadows of political, psychological, social, and intellectual bondage.” These shadows have morphed and become more sophisticated throughout the years despite the advancements made during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired us to keep our eyes on the prize and continue to give voice to the voiceless.
In King’s words, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Black Lives Matter. Let’s celebrate our beloved revolutionary by making his dream come to fruition.
Jason Marque Sole, Ph.D. candidate, is an adjunct professor in Metropolitan State University’s School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. Connect with Sole on Twitter: @.