“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr.King was not a civil rights leader of words without deeds, as we witnessed from most of the speakers during the Aug 24th 50th Anniversary Commemorative March in his honor. Dr King didn’t just give speeches & wait on the outcome of votes to win the victories of equality. He practiced & participated in what he preached. He never endorsed a political candidate or relied on their assistance in his battles. In fact, there were never any black civil rights won through votes.
But there weren’t many calls for organized civil actions from the speakers at the rally in Dr. King’s honor for the struggles we continue to face today. No one endorsed of his practice of organized, non-violent civil disobedience or offered to organize an event. I’m especially the issues, referenced by many of the speakers, of the unpunished racially profiled assaults, arrests & genocide of African-American men and prison inequities in the prison industry. I heard mentions of “the civil rights battle wasn’t over, “we must continue the fight”- mostly aimed at getting the Supreme Court’s recent gutting of The Voting Rights Act overturned, without much specific on how.
Rep. John Lewis, one of the original civil rights leaders & speakers, came very close to suggesting organized action. Regarding the Voting Rights Bill, he said, “You can not stand by, you can not sit down, you have to stand up. We must get out, speak up. Make some noise.” He declared voting was the most powerful tool. He referenced the technology (internet, iphones, etc) as ways we must use to communicate to our Congressmen, we can’t allow the attacks of Voting Rights Protections & Healthcare to stand. However, he didn’t offer any direction on how to organize those efforts. (but God he has done more than his share, as he even reminded us how he shed blood along side Dr.King during the original civil rights movement)
Only Myrlie Evers came close. She spoke directly of SYG laws, suggesting we take the terms literally “Stand Your Ground” and stop the course of [rights] which are slowly being taken away from us. Adding that we should not forget the women represented in the past civil rights movement & today, she continued
“Stand your ground for freedom and justice and do whatever is necessary and legal to move this country forward.” (The only phrase heard that came close to Dr.King’s ideology.) “Because we are on stand still today, stand still that looks back and we can not let that happen.” She continued to speak of allowing the leaders of yesterday to step back, yet reach out a hand to the young leaders of today “because we need them”…
“50yrs ago today Dr.King & so many others helped to show us the way and give us the strength… let us not forget the history and let us move forward.”
But despite acknowledging, just a few seconds ago, that “we are at a stand still now” (implying from my perspective things are moving backward on their watch) & acknowledging Dr.King had given us the blueprint years ago, she felt the the old guard should step back?
From the history of Dr.King, I find it hard to believe his stance on the ongoing racially profiled arrests, maiming and murders of our innocent, unarmed men, would be him just encouraging us to vote. From Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo all with in the pass 15 yrs & the sudden recent rash of murders in Florida of #Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis & Israel Hernandez, I can’t imagine Dr.King sanctioning the non action being taken. Add to that shooting of 60 yr old Roy Middleton in his own driveway holding only a cigarette in his hand, but having his entire leg shattered by a barrage of 15 police bullets and the 20yr sentence Marissa Alexander is serving for shooting a warning bullet into a wall, I believe Dr. King would be directing, (if not personally involved) some direct non violent protest until the conditions that encourage this behavior is ended.
Dr.King methods were organized, non-violent, civil disobedience campaigns:marches, sit-ins, protests & boycotts, which he dedicated his career & life, as the way to counter racial injustice where ever it occurred in the nation.
Yes he gave speeches to ignite the movements but his commitment didn’t end there. Dr.King, along with the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), immediately organized, lead and participated, side by side with the citizens, who risked their liberty & sometimes lives in these movements. Dr. King, himself was seriously injured twice & jailed 29 times.
An overview of a few of the campaigns he led show the stark contrast between him and the leaders of today, which strongly correlate with the lack of progress Mrs Evars so eloquently noted:
The Selma to Montgomery Campaign– Aimed at securing enforcement of African-American voting rights, the 54 mile march & protests were met with violence from the KKK, local police enforcement, incarceration of many of the marchers & leaders including King. & two unprosecuted deaths. Only after the 2nd death, by court order was the march & planned occupation of Selma allowed to continue. Upon reaching Montgomery, Dr.King & protesters were supported by a host of the most popular celebrities of that era -Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Peter, Paul and Mary, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joan Baez and Nina Simone all performed.
When protesters demands were still not met, Dr. King called for a boycott of the state of Alabama products. He not only organized but helped enforce it by having members of the campaign patrol the downtown areas encouraging any blacks shoppers to not patronize segregated businesses.
The outcome of this effort was President Lyndon B. Johnson promoting the bill which would become Voting Rights Aug 16, 1965, giving federal protection to Black voters in every state.
Montgomery Bus Boycott– Though initially started by a church grass-roots effort & the NAACP, it wasn’t until Dr. King & his coalition became involved the effort grew and gained national attention & support. After suffering similar harassment, violent attacks & incarceration, etc, the coalition finally won desegregation on all public transportation of in Alabama & all interstate transportation.
The Birmingham Campaign of 1963– Was a model of mixed direct action protests, as it effectively shut down the city, drawing worldwide media attention to harsh violent treatment Blacks were suffering under the racial segregation in the South.” This campaign endure all the same brutal acts of the mentioned above& much worse such as bombings. But due to its multifaceted, highly organized combination of protest tactics this campaign brought about the most change. It included several defiant marches with the intention of causing arrests until the jails were full to the brim, sit-ins at business & public facilities banned by use for blacks, a highly organized and monitored boycott of the cities businesses that even drew support of whites in the city and a coalition of rabbis who declared the treatment of the protesters and citizens akin to the Holocaust. After months the jails and businesses in the city were completely non violently disrupted to the point of a total shutdown.
Resolution-On May 8th, business owner voluntarily gave into the protests demands removing their “whites only” signs & serve & hire black employee, against the will of cities politicians.On May 10, Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King told reporters that they had an agreement from the City of Birmingham to desegregate lunch counters, restrooms, drinking fountains and fitting rooms within 90 days, and to hire blacks in stores as salesmen and clerks. Those in jail would be released on bond or their own recognizance. Urged by President Kennedy, the United Auto Workers, National Maritime Union, United Steelworkers Union, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) raised $237,000 in bail money ($1,780,000 in 2013) to free the demonstrators. Commissioner Connor and the outgoing mayor condemned the resolution.
The reality of how fast all of these victories took time to implement & were followed by much resistance, including violence (pls see link for full account). But these are the methods which ended the racial injustices we benefit from today, and only some modified version of those same organized tactics will be the only what ends the ones we face now.
It will required a highly committed group of leaders and supporters working in concert to effect any change in the racist policies we were living through today the wave of unpunished racially profiled murders, maiming and prosecutions and the school to prison pipeline orchestrated in many states. Due to the subversive nature of how these injustices are carried out, no amount of legislation can correct it. Pass a law saying “no racial profiling”? What officer has ever admitted to simply arresting, shooting or murder based on race anyway, it would be a toothless measure. Shut down any city with a wave of protests and boycotts the economic suffering alone will bring on the change needed. It’s the only language this corporate run country understands
And those were only the highlights of Dr. King’s career. Up until his death, Dr. King continued to fight for economic freedom having moved into public housing & was campaigning for the impoverished. He and his family lived, the civil rights movement while they lead it. Now we only seem to have a bunch of talking heads, some making great commentary and some completely out of touch. Only the Dreamdefenders.org with the support of Harry Belafonte followed the methods, Dr. King and so many other laid down their lives for. Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Mary Mary & Gerald Levert have joined in a boycott effort that would make Dr.King proud.
But for the rest of the bunch, I can’t say the same. They only spew the same rhetoric every time one of our men fall victim & manage to get in the spotlight. But no action, no organizing…. they really should be ashamed of pretending to be following in the footsteps Dr. King’s efforts. With the exception of President Obama, who obviously can not take sides in this matter as leader of the entire country, none of these self-proclaimed “Civil Rights Leaders” are leading much of anything, except the salaries they collect as pundits.