On April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. A man of profound courage and conviction breathed his last breath on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel. After this tragedy, many thought the causes Dr. King championed would fizzle under the enormous pressure to retreat and cower in fear. While millions mourn throughout the world at the loss of a “drum major for justice”, generations are still inspired to keep the dream and the movement for justice alive.
In 2018, our country and our world are facing challenges of injustice and inequity on a daily basis. These fights are waged in the spiritual, economic, political and social arenas. As we face these challenges head on, we must reckon with our own ways of confronting injustice. Do we hide behind a hashtag? Do we keep silent to avoid confrontational moments with those who disagree with us? Do we rush to champion a cause or a position because it’s popular or because it’s right? These questions serve to check our motives, our intentions and our character as we continue the effort of “liberty and justice for all”.
In the Fall of 2000, I entered Seton Hall University as a Martin Luther King, Jr. scholar. As a MLK scholar on campus, I felt the weight of responsibility to carry on the legacy of those who came before me. There were many that did not have the opportunity to go to school, let alone seek a college degree. The burden of accepting a student-scholar role was one that I was privileged to walk out in and outside of the classroom. But I soon realized that being a MLK scholar meant that I could not be content or satisfied with the status quo. I had to look deeply at the underlying, systemic injustices that plagued our society and work hard to find solutions. No easy task, but a worthwhile one.
Today, 51 years after the assassination of Dr. King, the American citizenry and the citizens of the world have a choice. We can either be satisfied with how things are or stand up for the change Dr. King was fighting day and night for. It wasn’t change for change sake. This change was to recognize that every human being matters. Every human being has value. This change is not locked up in great oratory, sermons and stories. It impacts policy, legislation, economics, gentrification, and our criminal justice system.
Today and everyday is a good time to take a real hard look at how each of us are contributing to a more just society in the eyes of God, not simply defined by man. In the words of Dr. King: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” It’s my earnest prayer that my living rises to that moral and ethical standard. I pray the same for you. — RF