Monday will mark the 30th straight year the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee has organized a broad-based, community-wide salute to the legacy of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. The event will take place at Seattle’s Garfield High School. The mobilization of participants in this commemorative tribute to Dr. King is being carried out by hundreds of folk: Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, progressive white, labor, faith- based, peace, environmental and other social justice groups.
For this year’s celebration, the focus will be on learning more about Martin Luther King Jr.’ s expansive views, philosophy and strategies for change during the last three years (1966-68) of his life. We are doing this for the following reason. We think it is timely!
Over the last few years, political debate in our nation has been dominated by discussions of the economic recession that has been so devastating to millions of poor and working class American families. We have also been mesmerized by the controversy swirling around the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations-- a movement primarily composed of youthful participants who have decried the fact that 99% of the wealth in this country is controlled by just 1% of the population and guided by the belief that true democracy in America is not possible until we figure out how to better redistribute wealth amongst all the people in the United States of America.
One of the main themes articulated by Martin Luther king Jr. during the last period of his life was the need to reprioritize our nation’s spending on people, and not on foreign investments, wars and increased profits for the rich. Few people are aware of this fact in our community. This is why we have adopted our boldest theme ever to guide the build up to the Workshops, Rally and March that we are planning for Monday, January 16. That theme is: “Recapturing Martin Luther King Jr.’ s Revolutionary Spirit!”
We want people to know that our theme is extremely relevant to what is happening in our country today. For example, people need to know that Dr. King started organizing the Poor People’s Campaign in November of 1967, because of his belief that it was time for us to move beyond the civil rights struggle, to a stage in the movement where it would become of paramount importance to advocate for structural changes in our economy, hence the reason he was mobilizing poor people all over our America to join the campaign to demand that Congress pass legislation to eliminate poverty and unemployment in our nation. He was carrying his message to whites who resided in the Appalachian Mountains, Native Americans on their Reservations and Latinos in urban barrios. He wanted them to join Blacks from around the country in massive caravans that would meet in Washington D. C. during the month of June 1968 to start pressuring their Congressional representatives to support the legislative platform of the Poor People’s Campaign.
His commitment to finding ways to improve the plight of working class and poor people in this country is also what lead him to come out, uncompromisingly, against the war in Vietnam in 1967. He believed that if we [Americans] can “forego greed and learn to live more simply, we could allow the people of Vietnam, and elsewhere around the world, to simply live.” In Dr. King’s opinion, that would be the best way for the United States government to stop the spread of terrorism and communism.”
Given what is happening in our country today isn’t his thought a sobering one?
Metropolitan King County Council Chair Larry Gossett is the chair of the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee