This past Monday marked 54 years since the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By the time of his death at the young age of 39, Dr. King had propelled our movement through the American South to the White House and the world. When cowardly assassins conspired to take the life of Dr. King, their acts strengthened the movement in many ways. We turned our heartbreak into a heightened call to action.
There has been much progress since that fateful day in 1968. As we reflect on Rev. Dr. King Jr.’s life, it is fitting that we also experience the joy of witnessing the United State Senate appoint Ketanji Jackson Brown to be the first Black woman ever to the position of Supreme Court Justice. To the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the countless, nameless others who came before us, “job well done.”
While we praise the work of those who came before us, we must remember that there is still much work to do. Some states are stripping away hard-fought voting rights laws and are implementing regulations to make it difficult, if not impossible, for communities of color to participate in our democracy.
On April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, Dr. King gave his last speech at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee often referred to as his “I’ve been to the Mountain Top” speech; Dr. King seemed to predict his death by saying that “I may not get there with you.” He said, “longevity has its place, but I’m not concerned about that now.”
In that same speech, Dr. King said that despite all the mess and calamity in the world, there is no other time in history that he would rather live than now.
“The nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around…But I know somehow that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”
These words still ring true today. While there is still much work to be done, we cannot be discouraged or shrink from the challenges before us. We must remain pragmatic and optimistic that our movement and our mission will, one day, no longer be needed.
Today and every day, we honor his legacy and the countless ways he changed us for the better in both his presence and absence.
Please take a moment to listen to the “I’ve been to the Mountain Top” speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.