Fifty-five years ago this week, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the age of 39. His death rocked the world and America’s African American community in particular which responded with riots and destruction in our cities and streets. During the years since, we have seen many of his dreams for a better America come to pass. But what Dr. King said he had seen “going to the mountain top” the night before his death, has still not materialized in part.
Yes, we have had our first Black President of the United States and our first Black Vice President who happens to be a talented Black woman who was a United States Senator and former Attorney General of the State of California, but equality still eludes us as Black and African Americans continue to lag behind White America in life expectancy, income, home ownership and just about every other area.
As we celebrate Dr. King’s Birthday each year with what is now a national holiday, let us remember why and how he died as a sacrifice for all of us and the benefits so many enjoy today. We keep his death from being in vain by continuing the fight against poverty, discrimination and the “Insufficient Fund” check he said Black America had been given instead of equality, freedom from segregation and a second class citizenship so many of us have been forced to live with. Let us remember some of his most important statements like “give us the ballot and we will elect people with a moral righteousness about the fairness we are most concerned about.” But what good is the ballot, if we don’t vote and won’t vote; what good is Civil Rights and Voting Rights Laws if our only concern is about ourselves instead of the collective that Dr. King fought and died for.
Today, our cities are not burning as they were 55 years ago when we learned of the death of Dr. King. Instead of crying out in righteous indignation, too many become tranquilized with the wine of “just enough”, no longer having the passion or concern for the struggle we still live with 55 years after his death. Let’s remind ourselves and others that Dr. King did not die in vain. Let’s rise up and fight voter suppression, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, police murders in and out of custody and the war of real Black history in America. As the song says “…wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed.” Time to join the struggle in remembering why Dr. King died.