One of my favorite shows growing up was the sitcom, A Different World. This show greatly influenced my decision to not only to attend an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), but to attend Hampton University. It reminded me of the fictional Hillman College, which was also in Virginia. A Different World would influence me again in my desire to become a college professor, particularly with the Martin verses Malcolm episode, called Great X-pectations. The students were given an assignment where they were to imagine what words had been exchanged between the two Civil Rights icons in their one and only meeting on March 26, 1964. I loved how the characters Dorian Heyward and Terrell Walker used the famous quotes of Malcolm and Martin to respectfully debate how to best approach opponents of the movement for equality. I cannot help but to think how far our people have come since that time period of inequality and segregation. But, we still have further to go. Dr. King talked a lot about the dream of racial equality and I am pretty sure that’s what most people are remembering today as we celebrate his birth. Dr. King represented so much more than that though. He was also for economic prosperity for minorities and the poor. We all know that Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 while in Memphis, Tennessee. He had been working with the striking sanitation workers, who were protesting for job safety, better wages, benefits, and a place in the union. This is common knowledge. You may have read my blog a few posts ago,about how Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had their retreats at Penn Center on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina in order to plan their Civil Rights strategies. What you may not know and what I have recently found, is that Penn Center was where Dr. King developed the “Poor People’s Campaign,” that served Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and poor Whites. You can read more about it here.
Economic prosperity is still a portion of Dr. King’s dream many of us have yet to realize. As hard as it is, we need to work towards this portion of the dream. We need to save our money a little at a time. We also need to invest in our neighborhoods, to rebuild our culture, which includes getting a good education and building our wealth for future generations. Yes, I am back on that again – Gentrify Your Own Self! So as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, please understand that this Civil Rights leader was much more than speeches and marches. He was more than a leader of Black people. He was a leader of all people.
Happy Martin Luther King Day!