Monday, January 18, 2021 is Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Tributes to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. are held in the Unites States nationwide. The day is usually marked by massive commemorations including march protests to remember and celebrate the national civil rights leader who was instrumental in challenging the racial caste system that delineated how millions of Americans lived their lives and promoted racial injustices targeting minorities, especially Blacks. This year is unique: Rev Martin Luther King Jr.'s the birthday falls in a period of major political changes, including transition to a new presidency, and racial tensions in the United States and in the middle of a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an annual federal holiday since 1986. All 50 states celebrate the public holiday on the third Monday in January, but not all states, cities and towns dedicate it solely to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Rev Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Stand Up for that which is Right"
Marches over the recent years have focused on the treatment of minorities by law enforcement. This year, marches may be limited but commemorations will certainly call for the police reform, racial justice, and highlight the fact that "Black Lives Matter" and stand for justice. In fact, as Rev. Marting Luther King Jr.. said: "A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true."
This year, commemorations will highlight The life and times of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cannot be summarized in an article, not even in books or tomes. However, the commemoration and the events to celebrate his life and achievements are a testimony on how far America has come, thanks to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and all the Civil Rights movement leaders and activists, and the momentous task still ahead. The days, like in Dobie Gray's Drift away song, have been looking as drifting away but there is still hope, to carry people through, to free their mind and soul, to give them joy, and to make them strong.
And, as Sam Cooke said in his song: A Change is Gonna Come, the change Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr dreamed about, years ago, in 1963, is on a long term progress.
Reverend Raphael Warnock a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
On January 5, 2021, after a a runoff election, Reverend Raphael Warnock, became Georgia's first-ever Black US senator and also the first Black Democratic US senator from a southern state (see AfroAmerica Network: Georgia US Senate Runoff Election: Jon Ossoff, Rev Raphael Warnock, and Stacey Abrams Make History). His victory helped the Democrats to regain control of the US Senate. Th Aftewards, an angry mob stormed the Capitol in Washington DC in in insurrection that left five people, including a Capitol policeman, dead. The angry mob clearly showed racist and anti-semitic views, symbols, and behaviors, such as displaying a despicable "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt and a Confederate flag, a relic of the Civil War and a modern-day symbol of racism, which was paraded in the US capital for the first time in the history of the United States.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermons at Ebenezer provided insights into racial and social problems of the day, that are still being faced even today. In one sermon, on the Fourth of July in 1965, a month before the Voting Rights Act was enacted, Rev Martin Luther King preached:
“Now ever since the founding fathers of our nation dreamed this dream in all of its magnificence—to use a big word that the psychiatrists use—America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself . On the one hand we have proudly professed the great principles of democracy, but on the other hand we have sadly practiced the very opposite of those principles. But now more than ever before, America is challenged to realize its dream, for the shape of the world today does not permit our nation the luxury of an anemic democracy. And the price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro and other minority groups is the price of its own destruction.”
New Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Atlanta, Georgia
Ahead of the 2021 Rev Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, the city of Atlanta, Georgiam installed a new bronze statue to King that stands at the intersection of Northside Drive and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive across from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The statue was sculpted by Jamaican-born Basil Watson.
We Shall Overcome
Martin Luther King, Jr., used "we shall overcome.” call in his final sermon in Memphis in 1968, just before his assassination. The words echoed several days later in the singing of the 50,000 people at his funeral.
Peter Seeger composed the song "We Shall Overcome," that became the hymn of civil rights activists across the US and the World. In the song the following words highlight the struggle in Rev Martin Luther King Jr's time and even now:
"This is the reason that I want to fight,
Not 'cause everything's perfect, or everything's right.
No, it's just the opposite: I'm fightin' because
I want a better America, and better laws,
And better homes, and jobs, and schools,
And no more Jim Crow, and no more rules like
"You can't ride on this train 'cause you're a Negro,"
"You can't live here 'cause you're a Jew,"
"You can't work here 'cause you're a union man."