Upland, CA — Each year after the holidays we look forward to celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had the honor and privilege of working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Los Angeles (SCLC-LA) for many years as their event planner and community relations consultant. Although I was aware of Dr. King and his many accomplishments, working with SCLC-LA, I grew in appreciation for not only his sacrifices, but also for those who were on the battlefield and front line of the movement with him. Some of these heroes and sheroes were not always given the same reverence given to Dr. King. No disrespect to Dr. King, because so many have been able to stand on his shoulders for the work he did, I just want to shed a little light on the fact that there were others that helped him and sacrificed just as much as he did.
Most movements have a spokesperson, but no one gets to a level of leadership alone. People from across the globe participated in some form of fashion either in front or behind the scenes to get the work done that was necessary to propel the movement forward. There are familiar names such as Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, and Bayard Rustin. But there was also Howard Thurman, Mordecai Johnson, and Dr. Benjamin Mays. Locally here in Southern California there was Dr. Thomas Kilgore, Gwen Green, Reverend James Lawson, and Reverend Collins just to name a few. I am sure there are more local heroes and sheroes that played a role in the building of the work of Dr. King that we will never know.
Close to a half a century later, we are still in a serious “movement.” Whether we are talking about social, economic, racial discriminations or hate crimes, there are still so many issues we are facing that were fought for during the civil rights era. Sometimes we could question what progress we have really made since the death of Dr. King. Of course, there has been some improvement in housing, employment opportunities, and inter-cultural relationships, but not enough. We must think about the main principles Dr. King tried to share with the world and impress on us to embrace. There were many that also influenced this thought process such as Mahatma Ghandi, and people he learned about in his various readings such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Browne and even Leo Tolstoy. Martin was an avid reader, and he absorbed a lot of what he read and learned and applied it to the work of civil and social activism. His philosophy is still relevant today.
Dr. King believed that only nonviolence had the power to break the cycle of retributive violence and create lasting peace through reconciliation. In his 1957 “Birth of a Nation” speech he said, “the aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption.” Some people feel that exhibiting nonviolence is weak, I challenge that thought process because it takes great strength to practice nonviolence. Being nonviolent does not mean being quiet, or sitting down where you need to stand up, it means practicing self-control over hatred and developing strategy over emotion. Many of the companions who helped in the work of Dr. King exhibited this strength to help Dr. King become the man he was called to be.
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Visit www.WendyGladney.com and www.forgivingforliving.org to learn more. Wendy is a life strategist, coach, consultant, author, and speaker.