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Letter: Martin Luther King Jr. to Black Lives Matter — ‘Where do we go from here?’

Wendy Alexander/ Madera Tribune File Photo

A Black Lives Matters mural was recently painted on a building at 126 N. B St. A Martin Luthur King Day Celebration is set for Monday at noon (virtually: Instagram @Madera_Youth_Leaders, Facebook at Madera Youth Leaders). On-site events will be held with social distancing requirements, or in-car participation.


“Here comes that dreamer! … [L]et’s kill him and … see what comes of his dreams.”

— Genesis 37:19.

America is on the precipice. As it was then and it is now, there is a paucity of truth, trust, certainty and community in this country. The enduring legacy of King’s vision continues to provide the moral common grounds for our country’s struggle to remain a nation bound “in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of identity.” We invoke his name as our nation’s greatest 20th century orator, influential religious leader and Civil Rights icon. We set aside a day, name schools, street and public places in his honor, and stock libraries with books and documents of the man and his legacy.

Individually, we cling to our selective memories yet as a nation, we suffer from collective amnesia. Americans fondly recall his great speeches but refuse to recognize his activism. Little has changed in 50 years. The triple cancer of poverty, racism and militarism that he warned us about has metastasized in our national life. Racial justice continues to get lost in the larger culture war in our country.

Is Martin Luther King Day an abstract acknowledgement, academic exercise for students, day to sleep in late, or commercial enterprise. Many can attest to the fact that his speeches continue to stir the heart but how many can attest to furthering King’s legacy of racial justice activism. How many have examined their lives and made a mental inventory of how the Civil Rights movement impacted their own lives: opened up a whole new world to them; taught them the realities of politics, power, the poor and the nature of privilege; helped them to proudly stand up for causes that are bigger than themselves; influenced their career choices and fired up pursuit of their life passions.

The growth of Black Lives Matter is not an accident. Indeed, it is a movement that is the embodiment of King’s legacy and renewed affirmation of our universal right of human dignity and sanctity of life which has been made even more poignant today. It provides a logical point of departure from a sanitized legacy to reclaim the mantle of racial justice activism — a resurgence of the dream that reflects the context, vision, sensitivity and moral imperative of this generation and not just some 60s nostalgia. This generation rejects a post-racial society that celebrates colorblind racism. This is not the society in which they want to live and they are prepared to create a new one that fully respects human dignity and provides a system of opportunities for all.

There are more people of good will than there are people of ill will, but there are even more people who remain silent. Unless justice is something we all do every day and not some passing political noise, feeble inkling of distress or feigned act of compassion toward the least of us, America continues to await Dr. King’s dream -- a time when Americans will greet one another on the third Monday each January with “Happy Martin Luther King Day.” Until then, we have work to do.

Join us: Martin Luther King Day Celebration – Monday, January 18th, 12 pm, 126 N. B St. (Virtually: Instagram @ Madera_Youth_Leaders, Facebook at Madera Youth Leaders; On-site (in-person across street/socially distanced or in-car) or drive past.

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Baldwin S. Moy is the directing attorney of the Madera Regional Office of California Rural Legal Assistance.

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