Today I participated in the #ReclaimMLK March starting at 110th & Lenox in Harlem. This march was different than the ones written about in About Last Night and on 12/13/14, this march was to commemorate Dr. King but also show how his dreams of racial justice have not come through with the constant killings of black (and brown) bodies. There is not much to say this time. No complex analysis or deep thoughts on this march the only thing that I can think of after today is the same question I asked the first time, “Why are we still marching?” Well the answer is even simpler, Racism never disappeared but evolved. Now I know I say this in almost every post but it becomes very clear when you think of today’s march in conjunction with the recent snub of Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo for independent nominations at this years Oscars (Yes we have our own award shows but it is very telling when no people of color have been nominated for major categories this year). The recent snub is important for today’s context because it shows that we have reached a point where people feel comfortable enough to have the movie but not comfortable enough with how the black woman director told the story through the eyes of King and his supporters. Though this national holiday is important, we should have seen it as the first nail in the post-racialism coffin that was being built to discredit any claims that racism still existed in America. Dr. King day became a rallying cry for people to start saying “See we gave a black person a national holiday even though we did not like him when he was alive because he challenged our system of racial privilege and exploitation but now that he’s dead and these people are demanding we have to act like he was a voice of reason although we suspected him of being a communist but anyways he has a holiday now so racism is officially over so stop playing that race card! “(Still searching for this race card but it cannot be found in my possession where do I apply for one).” If Dr. King was alive today he would not have been a fan of the police or the right who claim that there are no structural racial problems. Towards the end of his life he became very openly critical of capitalism as a whole and how it bred inequalities in America. His commitment to ending racial prejudice was met with strong opposition from those who wanted to maintain the status quo. Today we still have these issues but now we have people who defend that we are post-racial because of the election of President Obama (Which the President has attempted to play into himself earlier on and with some speeches mainly his 2013 graduation speech at Morehouse). Dr. King was not the sanitized man who many attempted to parade around when the Ferguson Protests began in efforts of stifling the growth of this movement, he challenged power even when his and his wife and children’s lives were threatened. This is why we must reclaim King not to be used as a figure of pacification for those unwilling to change but as an iconic figure of pursing justice against the odds. The beauty of this movement coming after the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement is that it has inherited powerful aspects from both. #BlackLivesMatter gets its militant nature from the likes of Malcolm X and The Black Panthers but we use non-violence keeping in the tradition of MLK. Dr. King has taught us that we have to keep striving for the mountaintop even if we don’t live to make it there. The hope is one day, racial justice will finally be reached but until then the struggle continues.
Bonus articles for your reading pleasure:
“A President and A King,” Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker
“What, To the Black American, Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?,” Chris Lebron, The New York Times
“Daughters of George Wallace, Ralph Abernathy Look Back on Selma Marches,” Glenn Rice and Brian Burnes, The Kansas City Star
Some young girls started singing this song while marching and I was a little inspired by it because they were young growing up in the Obama era made possible by the sacrifices of MLK and other Civil Rights pioneers but still seeing black bodies devalued. This song was one of the original protest songs.
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