Rev. Eric Lee
Justice, Jobs & Continued Struggle
On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered by an assassin’s bullet. As the foremost leader and prophetic voice of the Civil Rights Movement in America, and a global leader speaking against human violations around the world, Dr. King was often referred to, particularly by Black people, as the Moses of our time.
Commemorating the 44th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a coalition of community and faith based organizations, labor unions and individuals gathered last Wednesday, April 4 at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church to remember the man, reflect on the vision and reclaim the movement for social and economic justice. The event, “King Day of Sacrifice: Justice, Jobs and Continued Struggle”, was co-sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA), and attended by over 200 people.
“King Day of Sacrifice” maintained the constant theme of reflecting upon Dr. King’s impact and influence on the issues of racial justice, equality and freedom in every aspect of American society. Moderated by Rev. Eric Lee, SCLC, “King Day of Sacrifice” the primary speakers included Dr. Maulana Karenga, Chair, African Studies, Long Beach State University and African American Cultural Center; Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; Assembly Member Holly Mitchell, 47th District; Rev. Dr. Marvis Davis, President, Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California; and Bill Lucy, Founder, Coalition of Black Trade Unions (CBTU).
The evening event reflected the diversity of Los Angeles with participants from multiple ethnic and faith traditions. Solidarity speakers included representatives from African, European, Latino, Asian and Native American cultures, as well as Christian, African Spiritual, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and Religious Science faith beliefs.
Video clips of Dr. King were shown throughout the event that provided a rarely seen glimpse of the slain martyr of the Black led Civil Rights movement. In one video, Dr. King was captured speaking to an audience about the importance of Black Self-Determination and Self Love. Dr. King states in the video that, “if the Negro is going is to be free he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen an ink of self-assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation.” In the video, King goes on to state that he wanted to get the language right [so that] “everybody here will cry out, yes I’m Black, I’m proud of it, I’m Black and beautiful.”
The program was filled with a combination of Black spirituals, messages of triumph and victory, lessons learned from the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power Movement, solidarity statements and the need for community and labor to come together in the continued fight for justice. Bill Lucy described his interaction with Dr. King during the Memphis sanitation strike the day before his assassination. According to Lucy, Dr. King wasn’t killed by an assassin’s bullet as much as he was killed by the same institutional and systemic racism that exists today. Lucy also conveyed that he believed that Dr. King’s last speech where he stated that he “had been to the mountaintop” was a prophetic statement of his upcoming death. As such, rather than terming Dr. King’s death as an assassination, it should be termed as martyrdom.
One of the highlights of the evening was the introduction of the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA), an independent, social activist organization dedicated to representing, promoting and protecting the economic interests and well-being of the Black community and Black workers, and to working with labor unions on issues of shared interests and mutual benefit in the joint struggle for social and economic justice.
BCCLA members include the SCLC, African American Cultural Center, Black Worker Center, National Action Network, Advocates for Black Strategic Alternatives, I Choose Life Health and Wellness, NAACP-Los Angeles, MA’AT Institute for Community Change, Cooperative Community Development Corporation, SEIU SOULA Local 2006, United Community Associations, Ruach Community Christian Center, Christ Liberation Ministries, Organization US, Los Angeles Community Action Network, True Way Missionary Baptist, Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church, Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church and the Black Worker Center (BWC). The BCCLA was truly a demonstration of a Black United Front that has not been seen in some time.