Today represents the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is what I think he means to me.
(My reflections from 2008 on Myspace and an article I wrote questioning King's legacy among this generation that same year)
King is bigger than "I Have a Dream" - a speech that has been his hallmark and his defining moment. To me that speech means working together with people for a common goal, envisioning a world where barriers come down and all of us.
What people have to remember is that the focus of the country changed after that speech in 1963. The focus slowly shifted to Vietnam and poverty. Global issues and class issues dominated the day and MLK rightly knew that's where the fight had to shift (so did Malcolm X after returning from Mecca).
He wanted to change with the times and continue inspiring people of all races to FIGHT with compassion against injustice, not just racial injustice but human injustice. He wanted us to be free - free from prejudice, hate, ignorance and limits placed on us by society.
That's why I love that picture of him I found above. It urges us to act
People forget that Dr. King was a minister. He was an agent of God who felt like he was following basic ideals of Christ - love your neighbor, love thy enemy, teach the people to do the same. The greatest sign that you love Christ is loving your fellow man and King did that.
Too often, he gets placed him on this unreachable pedestal and keeps him pristine. But MLK was a man - flesh and blood like you and me. He helped show us how to achieve change - hard work, confidence in your voice, taking risks, upsetting the establishment and following your vision.
He got his start at 26. One year younger than me at the moment - I can imagine what he must have thought. What am I stepping into? Can I do this? Will people hear me? I can believe that as vulnerable as King was - he probably debated this a lot with his close advisors and internally but he never gave up his cause.
My favorite speech is the Mountaintop Speech - the Moses moment where he saw the future and left his people to get there and finish his work. But I love the Riverside speech as well - the moment where he spoke vehemently against Vietnam and the unjust war.
Some people may hate the Boondocks episode regarding his comeback, but I love it. I believe it rightly showed how King was treated in the world today and how Black people needed a swift 21st century kick in the rear from his updated message. We need to hear King speak today instead of being a monument from the past so people can "wake up from their apathetic slumber."
God bless his memory and may it live forever. U2 "In the Name of Love" helps do that.