The bonds of memory and today’s vast disparities in wealth and well-being tell us that we must continue the struggle launched by workers and by King in the spring of 1968. Today, more people live in poverty in America than in 1968. Now as then, the majority of the poor are “white” but poverty’s heaviest concentration is among people of color, especially young people and women. Poverty exists in part because most of the new jobs in Memphis, as in America, do not pay a living wage.
King’s approval ratings are much higher decades after his death than they were during his life. By 1987, 76 percent of Americans held a favorable view of the activist leader. But many are taught a simplified version of his life, focusing on only one of the three dimensions that defined him. During the Vietnam speech that turned the establishment against him, King railed against the “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech against the Vietnam War on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York one of the most profound and important speeches in American history. Without question, King’s speech in April helped to energize the anti-war movement and, through his profound moral analysis, in defining the degenerate role of the US in that war. It also helped to topple a sitting U.S. president - a profound lesson for us today.
United for Peace & Justice
Beginning this week, on April 4, peace-loving people around the country are participating in actions honoring Dr. King and readings of this speech, in a campaign to rebuild our movement. There's still time to join or host an event in your community. UFPJ has created a page with resources for you and your organization to host a reading. You can also sign-up right now to participate in a Thunderclap social media campaign with our partners from Veterans for Peace.
National Council of Elders
What follows is written in concert with the project initiated by the National Council of Elders on April 4, 2017: Time to Break Silence. Groups around the country will stage public readings of Martin Luther King’s Beyond Vietnam speech on its 50th anniversary. In confronting the deeply rooted racism, militarism and materialism of the United States, Dr. King described the United States as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential black leaders in history. His legacy has inspired people around the world to fight for equality — but that hyper-visibility also led to the whitewashing and sanitization of his life. It's a disservice to King's memory to ignore the full scope of his beliefs and his complexity as a person. His words can teach us a lot about what it means to be an activist and advocate for social justice.
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