January 16th has been a day set aside to remember and honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s person, his legacy, and his work.
The King Center Organization houses an archival collection of Dr. King’s life and moments of resilience. His work is an inspiration for all who want to make a difference. Which is why it’s critical to honor the work he has done as well as the work of other civil rights upholders, like Congressperson John Lewis — a civil rights icon and leader — against those who are, should we say, “misinformed,” to be the respectful side here.
“Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.” — The King Center
Dr. King The Writer
Dr. King’s work in civil disobedience is his work as a writer and as an orator. His greatest strength has always been his rhetoric — a term thrown around, unfortunately, as a synonym for manipulation or “words.” Rhetoric is the action of finding the available means of persuasion, not persuasion itself. And not only for manipulation — something negative that I believe Dr. King’s work is not. Dr. King’s rhetoric is for change. That is what he has argued for and that is what he worked to persuade those in power to do.
His speeches have held the highest regard among followers, historians, writers, and individuals all across the world. His most known speech, “I Have A Dream,” is a Nobel Peace Prize lecture that was powerful when given then and is one whose words are still relevant to this day. Dr. King’s life as a leader is a model for all who want to serve others and create change. As writers, individuals, community members, and people who care, we all have the responsibility to reframe narratives towards new ones that uphold peace, value, and appreciation. And we all can look to Dr. King’s actions and his writings to model our own.
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