Before the Birmingham bus boycott, there was great fear about a blow back for black people. But the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against such fears and against standing by as a muted witness.
Taking action and standing up for what’s right – these were among the many messages left Rev. King
Speaking in Washington,D.C. in 1968, he envisioned a march of the poor on the nation’s capital to begin to collect the debt owed hungry and forgotten Americans. He said:
“In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect. We are going to bring those who have come to feel that life is a long and desolate corridor with no exit signs. We are going to bring children and adults and old people, people who have never seen a doctor or a dentist in their lives.
We are not coming to engage in any histrionic gesture. We are not coming to tear up Washington. We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.
We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.
Why do we do it this way? We do it this way because it is our experience that the nation doesn’t move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for black people until it is confronted massively, dramatically in terms of direct action.”
We still still in a country stained by poverty and if there is a message today for the news media on Rev. King’s birthday, it is the need to see the whole horizon and to describe it so clearly and powerfully that nobody can reject its truths and thereby ignore what needs to be done.
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