Martin Luther King’s dream for a more peaceful world – led him to take a stand that was most unpopular at the time – but helped clear the path for peace – by taking a stand and uniting thousands from all backgrounds in opposing the War in Viet Nam. Martin’s Dream of a union of people with equitable wages and benefits led him to Memphis, Tennessee to support a strike of hundreds of working people of all colors, ages, and genders who were aiming their efforts – not at each other – but at the bosses who controlled their standard of living.
Although Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis – his actions helped clear the path for making the dream of a union a reality. Ultimately, this 64-day strike ended with a union contract for the sanitation workers – and it gave life to an ongoing union movement in Memphis and public employee union organizing in other parts of the South.
MLK did not just do service in our communities by writing, by speaking, by singing – by holding hands and singing “We shall Overcome” – he was part of actions that included marches, sit-ins, fasts, and boycotts. He reached out to all people of all backgrounds . He built multi-racial unity and stood with the working poor, immigrants, and unions. He went against the grain – and placed principles and values – what was right – in the forefront.
Much like those who refused to sit in the back of the bus during Martin’s time — we must now say – I will no longer sit at the back of the decision-making process – and, with my brothers and sisters alongside – we will move to the very front by voting with our feet and with our minds – to build a movement in this country – one which can help advance a quality of life for all – a just quality of environment for all, a just quality of education, health care, employment, education, and human rights – for all. This is the legacy of Martin Luther King — not only to celebrate his life and the thousands who won so many victories through the civil rights movement – but to walk out of here and make a commitment for the rest of our living days – to not rest – in developing a new direction — developing a future that is emerging — that will draw out the common legacies in the contributions that we have historically made to this society – That will build alliances of collaboration — That will build a political power base for the kind of equal and just world that we all have the right – to live in.
Presentation at 31st Annual MLK JR. Celebration: “Preserving His Dream: Past, Present, and Future”