Martin Luther King III: ‘We Must Be a Living Movement Not a Monument’

Martin Luther King III: ‘We Must Be a Living Movement Not a Monument’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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As thousands gathered in Washington DC Friday to commemorate Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 March on Washington, King’s namesake urged those in attendance not to dwell in the past but to work for justice in the present.

Those thousands who came together for the 57th anniversary of King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech did so during a summer of protests animated by the May 25 murder of the Black man George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis Minn.

Also, the nation’s focus is on yet another shooting by a white police officer of a Black man — this time, 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last Sunday — sparking days of protests and violence that left two dead.

“While we honor our history, we must be a living movement, not a monument. If Dad were here today, I’m sure he would implore us not to deify him and selectively quote him when convenient,” said Martin Luther King III. “He would want us to be drama majors for justice, to champion the ideals he promoted, racial justice, social equality and peace. And he would gently, but intently, challenge us not to dwell upon the past but to live and labor in what he called the fierce urgency of now.

“So if you’re looking for a savior, get up and find a mirror,” he added. “We must become the heroes of the history we are making.”

Using the imagery of Floyd’s final minutes as he laid dying with Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck, King exhorted all to vote to dislodge Donald Trump from the White House.

Rather than seek conciliation over the matter of racial justice, Trump has spent the summer taking hard stands against the protesters.

“Over the weeks ahead, culminating on Election Day, we need to vote as if our lives and our livelihoods, our liberties depend on it because they do!” King said. “No person, no people are more keenly aware of the risk of disenfranchisement than those who suffered from it. There’s a knee upon the neck of democracy and our nation can only live so long without the oxygen of freedom. The strength must be exercised by more than rhetoric and more than marching.

“The simple challenge before us is that everyone can cast a ballot and everyone who can must cast a ballot, and that ballot that is cast must be counted and the result must be transparent and known to the whole world,” he added. “And so, today I can call on everyone with a means to drive people to the polls, to make a plan for yourself. For your family and your neighbor, for those organizations and companies that care about democracy, I call on you today to offer your resources and your capacity to make sure every ballot is counted.

“If our forefathers were willing to die for the right to vote, we can work for the right to vote and I will continue to call on you to act in the coming days,” King said.

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