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What would Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say about the State of America if he were alive today?
By Special to Sentinel
Published January 14, 2021

Dr. George McKenna, LAUSD School Board of Education (Board District 1):  

As we prepare for the annual remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday it is essential to reflect on his philosophy, teaching’s, and leadership particularly in light of the acts of violence and hatred demonstrated recently at the nation’s capitol. Undoubtedly Dr. King would be appalled but neither surprised or defeated by the venom of white supremacy that continues to flow through the culture of millions of citizens in our “dis-united” states of America. He would remind us that the centuries old battle for the freedom of all lies in the hearts and minds of those who still believe that they are in danger of losing their economic, political and societal “status” if other cultures and races achieve equal access to the opportunities long deprived.

In this Oct. 24, 1966 file photo, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is shown in Atlanta. (AP Photo/file)

Dr. King’s belief in non-violence as a moral and political basis for achieving the “Dream” he envisioned did not include a passive or patient acceptance of a lower place in society. He knew this would be a multi-generational quest for our freedom, and prophetically told us that we would eventually get to the mountain top even if he were unable to be there with us.

The use of non-violent strategies and activities to resist oppression has proven more effective and long lasting when compared to other violent confrontations to express grievances. The non-violent movement remains the legacy of Dr. King and others who understand that changing the perceptions of our fellow citizens through peaceful and persistent resistance to injustice is the best way forward in our continuous struggle for equality in America. We owe it to him to remain faithful to the cause.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, D.C. Aug. 28, 1963. Thursday April 4, 1996 will mark the 28th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tenn. The Washington Monument is in background. (AP Photo/File)

Maxine Waters, Congressmember (43rd District):

“Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed fiercely in the power of hope, optimism, and activism. There is no doubt, that during this time of great unrest, and following a heinous attack on the Capitol of the United States, Dr. King would remind us that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. He would remind us that hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. And in this moment that confronts us, we must remember that through hard work and overcoming great challenges, Barack Obama became President of the United States, and, on January 20, Kamala Harris will be sworn in as Vice President. Harnessing Dr. King’s fighting spirit, we must remember that all things are possible and continue steadfastly in our struggle to ensure that every person among us receives equality and justice – for that proposition is certainly one worth fighting for.”

Karen Bass, Congressmember (33rd District):

I think Dr. King would urge us towards peace and urge us towards hope. We are about to have a woman of color serve as Vice President of the United States for the first time in history. We are about to have the most diverse cadre of Cabinet secretaries in United States history. We just experienced a massive racial reckoning in this country in which millions of Americans marched for equality. Despite recent events, we have to remember that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Dr. Martin Luther King during addressed at Charter Day Observance ceremonies at Howard University in Washington March 2, 1965. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Mayor:

When Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the spring of 1964, he confronted a nation in crisis, a landscape not unlike what we see today: Neighborhoods ailing. Inequality growing. A politics overcome by violence. A country conceived in liberty crying out for renewal.

Even so, Dr. King found reason for hope. He kept faith that a brighter dawn would soon break the desolate midnight of people’s inhumanity to their neighbors –– and he located that belief in the heart of the American creed. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,” he declared. “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children … This is the challenge of the hour.”

We, too, face dark days. But Dr. King’s message still beckons us to act with courage, to strive for our highest ideals –– and to keep fighting with the “fierce urgency of now.” Because progress is always possible. Because just three weeks after his speech in L.A., the Civil Rights Act passed and we moved a little bit closer to that more perfect union.

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Today, more than half-a-century on, when we find ourselves again at the doorstep of history, it’s our turn to pick up Dr. King’s mantle and make real the promise of America. That, he might say, is the challenge of this hour.

The Rev. Martin Luther King addresses a crowd estimated at 70,000 at a civil rights rally in Chicago’s Soldier Fielld June 21, 1964. King told the rally that congressional approval of civil rights legislation heralds “The dawn of a new hope for the Negro.” (AP Photo/Charles E. Knoblock)

Holly Mitchell, L.A. County Board of Supervisors (Second District):

I believe Dr. King would be just as appalled as we are at these recent acts of violence but also not surprised. This didn’t just happen. The attacks that we witnessed at our Capitol were the manifestation of hateful rhetoric and systemic racism that predates Trump, but has been emboldened by him. Dr. King would remind us not give up on our right to live in a just and equitable society. He would remind us that Raphael Warnock – a pastor from Dr. King’s church, is now the first Black man to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate – and that didn’t just happen either. Warnock’s victory is result of years of organizing and is also part of Dr. King’s legacy and the dream we must continue to fight for.

 

Janice Hahn, L.A. County Board of Supervisors (Fourth District):

“He would say Black Lives Matter.”

 

Steven Bradford, California State Senator (District 35):

“If the Reverend were alive today, I think he would note the great strides of progress that have been made. He would be very encouraged by the elections of Barack Obama and Kamala Harris to the offices of President and Vice President, and of Reverend Warnock in Georgia as the first African American to represent his state in the U.S. Senate.

But he would also say, ‘There can be no doubt that racism is alive and well in our nation. You don’t need to look any further than the recent events at the U.S. Capitol to see the damage a disease like racial supremacy has on a democracy.’ It’s clear that the America Dr. King prayed for, dreamed about, and died for still doesn’t exist today. And for that reason he would be greatly disappointed and deeply disheartened by the action last week. He would remind us that there is still much work to be done to achieve the America that we all desire.

Dr. King often stated, ‘that we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ Today too many of our friends, whether Democrat or Republican, are silent on the issues of last week. The true test of a man is not where he stands during times of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in moments of challenge and controversy. Dr. King would want us all to not just show up, but stand up and speak up and make sure our voices are heard during this critical time.”

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., center, and Bayard Rustin, leaders in the racial bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., leave the Montgomery County Courthouse on Feb. 24, 1956. The civil rights leaders were arraigned along with 87 other black activists. Thousands of supporters walked in protest against the mass indictments and arrests. (AP Photo)

Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Assemblymember (54th California Assembly District):

A great veil has been lifted, no longer obscuring the darkness of hate that we still face or the justice that is possible, and comes from equity and tolerance. Our burden remains heavy, but it is winnable, achievable and more critical than ever before.

Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Assemblymember (59th California Assembly District):

My belief is Dr. King would see how little things have changed and stated: ‘After nearly 60 years, the great fight for equality and civil rights remains a dream unrealized. We must remain focused, however, on the American promise embedded in our declaration that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This same argument is made in our faith book: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.’

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. (AP Photo)

Autumn Burke, Assemblymember (62nd California Assembly District):

Dr. King would say that while the flames of division are burning hot right now, they burn from the fuel of progress.  The violence we witnessed against our brothers and sisters and against democracy are the cries of a dying inequity.

All of this violence and rage, is like the shedding of a condition that society can no longer bear to wear.

Dr. King would encourage us to seek justice, and peace through non-violence, education and through the power of our fiercest weapon – the ballot.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit with three of their four children in their Atlanta, Ga, home, on March 17, 1963. From left are: Martin Luther King III, 5, Dexter Scott, 2, and Yolanda Denise, 7. (AP Photo)

Chris Holden, Assemblymember (41st California Assembly District):

“Dr. King said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. This is still true today. Earlier this month, we saw a mob with strong racist elements attack the Capitol at the direction of the President. At the same time, Georgia, a deep southern state, elected its first Black Senator because Black folks voted in record numbers. I believe Dr. King would encourage us, in his own inspiring words, to continue to educate, organize, and vote to bend that arc towards justice.”

Curren Price, Los Angeles City Councilmember (9th District):

“The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are more relevant today just as they were during the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s. If we are serious about making a real change within social and economic justice, in his words: ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,’” said Councilman Curren Price.

“The recent lawless acts that occurred in Washington DC helped to shine the spotlight on the dual standards of law enforcement we have in this country. Communities of color already know this first hand, in addition to the disparities felt within health, education, business and social services. Nevertheless, we are on the precipice of a new dawn for the next generation to wake up in the reality of the dream MLK had.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is seen at a press conference in 1966. (AP Photo)

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Los Angeles City Councilmember (8th District):

If asked about the current state of our society, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would say that the United States has yet to live up to its promises of Liberty Justice for all. The events that have occurred during the past several days lead me to reflect on this quote from Dr. King Jr.; “Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains?” As one of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement Rev. Dr. King Jr. created the blueprint for dissecting and confronting white supremacy. As a lifelong organizer, I remain committed to continuing that legacy of struggle while fighting for equity in our community and our country, said Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as he addressed a crowd with a bull horn in the Roxbury section of Boston April 22, 1965. King in Boston to lead a civil rights march, made a tour of the Roxbury section to view some of the schools in a predominantly African American district. He urged spectators to take part in the march. He will address a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature. (AP Photo)

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles City Councilmember (10th District)

“When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. J. Edgar Boyd, pastor at First AME Church, Los Angeles:

“America, ‘The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,’ was shaped on the backs of 244 years of free slave labor, and founded upon a noble creedal statement which is yet to be live out in practice, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…’

“From Frederick Douglas to Harriett Tubman, to Denmark Vesey, to Dred Scott, to Emmit Till, to Trayvon Martin, to Sandra Bland, to Brianna Taylor, to George Floyd, we see an unbroken litany of this nation’s denial of equal justice for Black Americans.  The violence demonstrated by an evil, racist, and unjust mob at the U.S. Capital last week remains an echo of the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Unless we learn to live together as brothers (and sisters), we will perish as fools.”

Martin Luther King speaks in Atlanta in 1960. (AP Photo)

Rev. George Hurtt, pastor of Mount Sinai Baptist Church:

“I believe Dr. Martin Luther King today would be proud of the church in many ways and disappointed in others. Proud of how so many have adjusted to the times to care for those in need.

“However, disappointed that we have not progressed to the point that we can determine and demand an agenda that lifts those that are down or hold those that are up accountable.”

In this March 17, 1965 file photo, thousands of demonstrators march to the Montgomery, Ala. courthouse behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to protest treatment of demonstrators by police during an attempted march. At foreground center in white shirt is Andrew Young. (AP Photo/File)

Rev. Dr. Mary S. Minor, pastor of Brookins-Kirkland AME Church:

“America has again defaulted on the promissory note, the Constitution. We witnessed the display of humane treatment of violent, unruly White insurrectionists and juxtaposed it to the inhumane treatment of non-violent, peaceful Black protectors.

“Again, America has given [Black] people a bad check marked insufficient funds. She devalues the lives of people of color by calling them “essential workers” amid a deadly pandemic. But, the dream is still alive!

“We witnessed a red Georgia turn blue and the elections of its first Black and Jewish Senators! Keep fighting for freedom, justice, and equality of all people! One day, the dream of the beloved community will be our reality!”

 

Pastor William D. Smart Jr., co-pastor of Christ Liberation Ministries, president/ CEO of Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Southern California: 

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would look at the events during the last year since his birthday and say that militarism, capitalism and White supremacy are still running rampantly through the fabric of America. Police violence and health inequalities have created a double pandemic for the marginalized, disenfranchised and vulnerable.

“However, we must move during this new day, summoning all the courage, fortitude and endurance to bring forth the beloved community where all of God’s children can prosper in a freedom that allows them to reach their highest endeavors.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., African American integration leader, in bed at New York’s Harlem Hospital on Sept. 21, 1958 following operation to remove steel letter opener from his chest. Rev. King was in critical condition immediately after his assailant, an African American woman undergoing mental observation at Bellevue Hospital, plunged the letter opener into King. (AP Photo/John Lent)

Rev. Dr. Brenda Maull, associate minister at Holy Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church:

“Communities of faith have stood witness to the sun going down on America. The notion of double standards and racial injustice in communities of color is not a false belief, but a harsh reality. While the rest of the world awakens in disbelief to America being swallowed up by the ugliness of its own underbelly, Blacks in America are not surprised.

“They have suffered too long the realities of how violence is fueled by ingrained racism. In recent days, the state of America has forced society to take a hard look at how human-centered arrogance left unattended can ignite the evils of ignorance.

“Dr. King would say to America, we are awake! He would appeal to clergy to resist complacency at holding itself at a distance from being culpable, but turn to the potential of its role in being capable of helping God’s people to gather the strength and optimism to go on anyhow.

“Dr. King would remind us that in the darkest hour of life circumstances, God is able. He would appeal to society to trust in the ableness of God as a testament of faith to change insurmountable circumstances.

“Dr. King would not shy away from grappling with the struggles of a health pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. Instead, his appeal would be to anchor oneself in the omnipresence of God’s ableness to use evil for His purpose. Dr. King would plead for prayers of peace, advocacy for change, and rest in knowing that God’s plan is perfect.”

 

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., right, accompanied by Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, center, is booked by city police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., on Feb. 23, 1956. The civil rights leaders are arrested on indictments turned by the Grand Jury in the bus boycott. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

Yvonne Wheeler, AFSCME:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have condemned the insurrection and assault on the American people and our democracy by an unhinged president. President Trump incited a mob of domestic terrorist to destroy the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to  disrupt the peaceful transfer of power to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, which will go down as one of the darkest days in American history. Therefore, we cannot allow the horrific events of January 6, 2021, to overshadow the historic elections of both Reverend Raphael Warnock, the first Black man elected Senator, and pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the same church Rev. Martin Luther King lead and John Ossoff, the first Jewish and youngest Senator from the state of Georgia. We know we cannot change the hate in the hearts and minds of others but must remind ourselves of the words of Dr. King when he said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

 

Areva Martin, author, award-winning civil rights attorney, talk show host, commentator, and go-to expert on compelling legal, political, women’s, children’s and celebrity issues:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. firmly believed that inequality is the greatest threat to justice — and, the corollary, that white supremacy is the greatest threat to democracy. But what became clear during the last few years and all the more apparent at the January 6th attack on the US Capitol — is that the converse is also true: Democracy is the greatest threat to White Supremacy.  Neither can long endure in the presence of the other. That is why on the day we celebrate Dr. King — and every day forward — all of us must renew our commitment to protect our democratic values and institutions from all enemies, foreign and domestic, especially those falsely disguised as patriots. And as Black women, we do that by continuing to run for office, fight voter suppression efforts and stand up for marginalized communities.

 

Charisse Bremond Weaver, President & CEO Brotherhood Crusade:

For me, one of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most outstanding and foreshadowing works was his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community. His insightful message stands true today. “Power is never good unless he who has it is good.” “The problem with hatred and violence is that, this kind of mindset intensifies the fears of the white majority, and leaves them less ashamed of their prejudices toward Negroes. In the guilt and confusion now confronting our society, violence only adds to chaos.”  As I reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, we must all take a stance against White Supremacy and hatred and demand justice for our people.

Ebenezer Baptist Church where people came in great numbers to pay respects to a fallen leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 8, 1968 in Atlanta, Ga.. (AP Photo)

 

Timothy Watkins, President and CEO The Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC):

We are witnessing the last, desperate gasps of American white supremacy.

 

Dr. Melina Abdullah, Co-Founder Black Lives Matter-LA:

As violent white-supremacy ravages the nation, Dr. King’s indomitable Spirit challenges us to engage courageously in the remaking of the world. He would remind us of the “fierce urgency of now,” and that while we must hold fast to the principle of non-violence, lasting peace also requires direct action. Let’s commit fully to the “beautiful struggle’ that lies before us in honor of Dr. King.

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King stands outside his hotel in Rome on Sept. 18, 1964. (AP Photo/Mario Torrisi)

Mr. Michael Lawson, President Los Angels Urban League:

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’

In the wake of the recent atrocities that took place in our Nation’s Capital when US citizens, who were bent on insurrection, desecrated the buildings where our American legislators were conducting their civic and constitutional duties; they showed their true measure.

We applaud those who stand with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for peace, justice, and the rights of all citizens to safely participate in the democratic process, which is at the core of our republic.

 

 

 

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