"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a complicated man. I am not a historian, certainly not an expert on the man or the movement, but I know how he contributed to the conversation about racial inequality and the creation of legislation (i.e. the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965) that changed our country forever. I know his personal life was not perfect and some criticize the capitalization of his political life, neatly packaged into a single day of celebration and memory, reducing his life's work to 24 hours worth of recognition.
Someone recently told me that he doesn't participate in MLK Jr. Day because it was just feeding into the white-washing of the movement and ideology. To claim that injustice and inequity, perpetuated by the government and sustained throughout society, is a paramount concern to humanity is in itself justified. Yet to then refuse to engage in this day of service, regardless of how brief or how seemingly insignificant the moment might be, seems like the most dangerous hypocrisy.
I am recognizing King's legacy today in a very small but meaningful way. My boyfriend and his son and I all watched "Selma" and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s original "I Have a Dream" speech. We discussed the importance of the Civil Rights movement, what life was like, and what people did to change it. Though it is not a lot, it is certainly something.
When I lived in Alabama, I went to the Selma Jubilee for the remembrance of Bloody Sunday each year, first with a group of fellow graduate students then with a group of high school students. Someday, I want to take my family and my college students there. It was probably the most spiritual experience of my life. The feeling of transcendence, of going back into a pivotal moment in history, and recognizing the incredible struggle and sacrifice is a memory I will never forget.