By Irv Randolph
Today Americans across the country will celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on the officially recognized federal holiday.
This year because of COVID-19 and the need to social distance, many will celebrate the civil rights leader’s birthday with virtual events. Others will celebrate his birthday by serving others in need such as conducting drive-through and walk-in COVID-19 testing, which targets marginalized populations from underserved communities.
The best way to remember and honor King’s legacy is by continuing his struggle against injustice and inequality.
King set a blueprint for what should be done today through his many speeches and books, including “Why We Can’t Wait” and “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”
Even more than his eloquent words, King showed the way through his actions. While he was a great orator and visionary, King put his words into action, his principles into practice.
King was a fighter for social justice, particularly against three major evils in the world: the evil of racism, the evil of poverty, and the evil of war.
In a speech before the Hungry Club Forum at the Butler Street YMCA in Atlanta on May 10, 1967, King acknowledged that progress had been made in civil rights, but warned that the “evils” of racism, poverty and the Vietnam War endangered further gains for Black Americans.
King said racism, poverty and war were all connected:
“Somehow these three evils are tied together. The triple evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism. The great problem and the great challenge facing mankind today is to get rid of war … We have left ourselves as a nation morally and politically isolated in the world. We have greatly strengthened the forces of reaction in America, and excited violence and hatred among our own people. We have diverted attention from civil rights. During a period of war, when a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social programs inevitably suffer. People become insensitive to pain and agony in their own midst …”
Is there any doubt that King would be fighting to eliminate poverty and against police brutality today? Is there any doubt that he would be fighting to protect voting rights?
Is there any doubt that if King were still alive he would be fighting for all Americans to have affordable and accessible health care?
In 1966, King said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”
To truly honor King we must continue his fight for social justice and equality today.
Irv Randolph is the managing editor of the Philadelphia Tribune, where this column first appeared.