City of Roses
|I thought it would be a good idea to each year continue to reflect on what this day means to each and every one of us, as I feel over the years his living memory has continued to blur and he tends to be treated often as an excuse for a three-day weekend, when it's crucial that we make an effort to recapture the true history of Dr. King as much of what he fought against is resurfacing or still with us today.
I believe King is not legendary so much because he simply "had a dream". I believe him to be legendary because he was a man who was willing to take great risks and spoke great truth to power. He was born without great wealth or prestige, nor ever belonged to an elected office; he very much blossomed from the public level himself, and, along with Gandhi, the other legendary nonviolence symbols of the 20th century, demonstrated how great influence and power truly comes from the heart of the public, and, essentially, it's the outsiders that complete the greatest achievements of liberty and progress.
His story in recent memory has continued to be addressed in an abridged version. His quintessential "dream speech" continues to be broadcasted, but we just rarely hear of his great indictments on the Vietnam War, the military-industrial complex and poverty (the latter which he campaigned a solution for in his final three years of his life, a part of his life ever too often largely overlooked). We rarely hear of how during his time there was deep mainstream antagonizing of him, from accusations from many corners accusing him of being a Communist and antagonizing by the FBI. We rarely hear of King's connections of civil rights with remedying Third World struggles. And when we hear of King's last day in Memphis, all we seem to hear about is his assassination, but barely anything about what he was doing in Memphis; supporting a garbage worker's strike and organizing a Poor Peoples' Campaign that demanded affordable housing and decent-paying jobs as basic civil rights regardless of the color of your skin or background.
Moreover, I believe often we tend to be pushed in the comfort zone, believing that all these struggles existed only in the past and we have grown up beyond them all. Indeed we have made great progress in many respects, especially moving beyond the Jim Crow era, but King's vision also remains as urgent as ever, as there remains other deep injustices that require resolve, including disenfranchisement in presidential elections, the inequalities in some urban school districts, the deep concerns of apathy among our youth, the FBI and NSA spying on peace and nonviolent groups, etc.
King ever too often tends to get treated like a reprieve of sorts, when he is worth so much more to each and every one of us. We're all worth much more, and that's why I believe it is essential that we really seize days like this and make a genuine effort to "keep the dream alive" so to speak, and in truly doing it we must not only treat this day as a day of remembrance, but a day of action and activism as well, and that's exactly why today I headed up to Jefferson High School in Northeast Portland with KBOO to embrace diversity in public education.
What does this day mean to you?
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"