Remembering Dr. King

4/7/2022, 11 p.m.
We pause this week to reflect on the light and lessons shared with this country and the world by Dr. ...

We pause this week to reflect on the light and lessons shared with this country and the world by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King, who is known as the “drum major for justice,” was only 39 years old when he was assasinated 54 years ago Monday in Memphis, Tenn., as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

Dr. King and a small group of his closest advisers, were in Memphis to support Black city employees — Black sanitation workers, to be exact — who had been on strike for nearly a month seeking higher wages and better treatment.

Dr. King’s persistent and nonviolent campaign for civil rights, human rights, voting rights, economic and social justice to end racism, militarism and poverty pricked the conscience of this nation and helped usher in many of the advancements and opportunities we now take for granted.

In this post-Trump world where the forces of racism, selfishness and evil have been unleashed, would Dr. King even recognize our country were he to come back today?

At every turn, efforts are being mounted on the federal, state and local levels to turn back voting rights, to thwart efforts by workers to unionize for higher wages and workplace protections and to let the rich avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

We are in a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted Black people and communities of color, and yet we continue to struggle with health inequities, including access, distribution of health resources and a bevy of conditions that lead to higher rates of disease and mortality within our community.

Our communities are plagued, too, by gun violence, with Richmond logging 14 homicides so far this year and dozens of non-fatal shootings that leave families broken and tormented as they deal with the aftermath.

Certainly, we must be able to defend ourselves, given the growing threat and backlash of white supremacists and terrorists. But we shouldn’t be turning on one another.

We have witnessed the ugly forces in the U.S. Senate who vociferously have tried to block a highly qualified Black woman from being confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. And we have a court that seems bent on taking our nation back to the days of blatant unequal rights that led to Dr. King’s activism, not to mention a justice who is unwilling to recuse himself in cases of clear conflict and that threaten our democracy.

Globally, we as a nation are watching with horror as a Russian autocrat sends troops into Ukraine that savagely torture, rape and kill civilians. Would Dr. King think our economic sanctions are enough to stop the barbarous behavior?

Wreaths were laid Monday at Dr. King’s tomb in Atlanta and at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, which has been turned into the National Civil Rights Museum to remind generations of people of what Dr. King stood for and the evil that sought to take him down.

In Atlanta, the King Center used the 54th anniversary of Dr. King’s death to hold a voter education and registration drive, followed by virtual nonviolence training and delivery of care packages to the homeless, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

We offer our readers the words of Dr. King that we hope will bring solace and inspiration in these somber times. And we hope that his words will help each of us to pick up the baton and continue to advance the principles Dr. King stood for.

The quotes below, and more, are etched in stone at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., on glass at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco and in Dr. King’s many books and speeches.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

“No. No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

“I believe that the day will come when all God’s children from bass black to treble white will be significant on the Constitution’s keyboard.”

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do what is right.”

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”