50 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Was shot and killed in Memphis, after marching in support of the ‘I Am A Man’ campaign of striking sanitation workers.
In the years since, Dr. King has emerged as one of our great national heroes; a person who insisted on holding this nation up to the standards we proclaim to be self-evident and endowed by our creator. Five decades later, Dr. King’s death haunts our nation, even as the power of his words and the universal principles of justice, compassion and inclusion still inspire us today.
Dr. King’s final days, standing in solidarity with the striking workers, were a powerful statement about his belief that justice for all meant opportunity and prosperity for all. He stood with the strikers, and marched with them, and fought with them. It was in Memphis where he proclaimed to history that he had “been to the mountaintop,” and that he “had seen the promised land.”
All of us can picture the clip of him speaking those words. But earlier in the same sermon, he spoke to why he had come to Memphis to stand with striking workers, whose fight for justice echoed the struggles of so many others deprived of justice and opportunities to prosper.
He said, “be concerned about your brother…either we go up together, or we go down together. Let us develop a dangerous kind of unselfishness.”
When we consider the iniquities and injustices that still plague our society, where too many people – particularly People of Color – are marginalized and denied justice and opportunity, we know the answer is to heed Dr. King’s call for that dangerous unselfishness, and truly commit to the labors and the sacrifices necessary to transform ourselves into a society that lives up to the aspirations Dr. King died for.
The best way for us to honor Dr. King – not just on the third Monday in January, but in every action we take as American Citizens – is for each of us to use our voices, our actions and our votes to continue fighting for the America that Dr. King, and the countless people he inspired, worked for.
He believed in an America where we end poverty for all. He believed in an America where every person is guaranteed quality healthcare, exceptional education, dignified work and a dignified retirement. He believed in an America that uses our influence and wealth to spread peace and justice here at home, and around the world.
And he believed in an America where Black Men and Black Women – and all People of Color – are respected and valued as proud, patriotic and equal citizens of a just and peaceful nation, free of the disparities in healthcare, education, wealth and justice that continue to fester and poison us. He believed in an America that truly embodies the values of equality, inclusion and opportunity; a country where the lives of innocent people like Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and Stephon Clark are never taken because the rights to life and liberty are absolute, and are protected for everyone universally.
50 Years ago, Dr. King was taken from us. But the movement for which he gave his life endures to this day. It’s up to each of us to keep doing the work Dr. King sacrificed his life for, to keep doing the work that will keep bending the moral arc of the universe towards justice.
The CDP Team