Members of the Fresno State chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gather before the march. Photo by Peter Maiden

Remembering and Honoring Dr. King

January 17th was a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King’s 93rd birthday which was observed across the nation and abroad. Let us take a moment to reflect on the life and legacy of this legendary and iconic figure in the history of this nation.

Dr. King is one of the most revered leaders who has inspired millions of us. Why? Dr. King was a drum major for justice and righteousness. He was an uncompromising champion of human rights and nonviolence.

Dr. King was a dreamer who gave the “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most famous speeches in history, but he was also a great do-er. He was a man of action. He led the successful Montgomery bus boycott and led the movement that resulted in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to name just a few of his notable accomplishments. He was awarded Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1964, for his nonviolent resistance to achieve justice, equality, and human rights for his people and for all of us. 

Inspired by his Christian beliefs and nonviolent philosophy and activism of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King’s activism and nonviolent protests became a triumph of courage and love. His words sparked a nonviolent revolution that changed the course of history in this nation. We can still draw on his courage and wisdom with these thoughts:

His life informs us and enlightens us.

His dream sustains us and nurtures us.

His words inspire us and empower us.

His struggle energizes us and strengthens us.

His cause still endures, and his dream still lives on.

Priscilla Thomas holds a sign harkening back to Dr. King’s campaign for voting rights in the 1960s, as voting rights are once again front and center before the Senate. Photo by Peter Maiden

Dr. King would strongly condemn the violence that occurred on January 6 at the Capitol Building. He would also condemn the voting rights suppression legislation in several states. He would strongly advocate the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. But he would also welcome the beginning of a new era in the political history of the nation. I believe he would also say it eloquently today:

My dear fellow Americans,

It is a time for healing, not for hate

It is a time for unity, not for polarization.

It is a time for compassion and forgiveness, not for revenge or retribution.

It is a time for understanding, not for provocation.

It is a time for civility and unity, not for discord or disruption.

It is a time for redemption and restoration, not for condemnation and dehumanization.

It is a time to serve those who are in need and who are poor and who are suffering now because of the pandemic. He said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ “

On Dr. King’s Birthday, let us commit ourselves to nonviolence and nonviolent protests. Dr. King gave us a blueprint to carry on the fights and struggles for justice, equality, and human rights for all.

Let us be the beacon of light. Let us set aside our petty differences for the better good of all. Let us work together to realize the dream of Dr. King in creating the Beloved Community, Symphony of Brotherhood, and World House.

Let us remember that we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

Let us not judge people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Let us remember Dr. King’s belief that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.”

Let us not forget that “Out of many, we are one.”

Let us not forget that we are more alike than unalike.

Let us not forget that we belong to each other.

Let us not forget that we are one human family.

Our sorrows and wounds are healed when we touch them with compassion.

Help us, God, to grow in trust and love, not in fear, mistrust, and prejudice.

Thank almighty we are here together. Lead us to build unity and faith in our community. Lead us so that justice and fairness may prevail in our hearts, mind, and in our community.

Dr. King’s message of justice, peace, racial brotherhood, and human dignity is timeless. It is relevant today. It is relevant tomorrow and will remain relevant forevermore.

  • Sudarshan Kapoor, Ph.D., is professor emeritus, founder and former director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program and professor of social work , community development and peace studies at Fresno State. Dr. Kapoor is the former co-executive editor of Peace & Change, published by the Peace and Justice Studies Association, and the founding chair of the Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley.

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