Annual tributes and commemorations of the life and legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., which begin Friday nationwide, usually involve a mix of politics, faith, and community service.
For this year’s celebration, the 37th since federal recognition in 1986, a descendant of King hopes to spur progress by helping more Americans personalize the ongoing struggle for racial justice and harmony. Bernice King, daughter of the late civil rights icon, said people need to move beyond platitudes and deepen their own commitment to necessary progress.
“We need to change our mindset,” says King, who is CEO of The King Center in Atlanta.
Under the theme of “It Starts With Me,” the center launched its Martin Luther King Jr. series on Thursday. Day events with youth and adult summits to educate the public on ways to transform inequitable systems in the US
The summits were streamed online and can be played on the center’s social media accounts.
“It seems like we’re going through these cycles because we’re trying to approach everything with the same mindset that created all this[racial inequality],” King told The The Bharat Express News.
“Change can be very small,” she said, “but transformation means that we have now changed the character, form and nature of something. We have not seen that yet.”
Other King holiday weekend events include a statue unveiling in Boston, a symposium on police brutality in Akron, Ohio, and community service projects in many US cities. The holiday kicks off another year of advocacy for a racial justice agenda — from police reform and strengthening voting rights to solutions to economic and educational disparities — that has been hampered by culture wars and partisan gridlock in Washington and across the country.
On Sunday morning, President Joe Biden will speak at a memorial service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic Atlanta house of worship where King preached from 1960 until his assassination in 1968. The church is led by Reverend Senator Raphael Warnock, who recently ran for election to a won a full term as Georgia’s first black U.S. senator.
And on Monday, the federal King’s Day celebration, commemorations continue in Atlanta, as well as in the nation’s capital and beyond.
Rev. Al Sharpton, who started out as a civil rights activist in his teens as the youth director of an anti-poverty project run by King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will hold his annual King holiday events in Washington, D.C. and New York on Monday. . Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights icon, is expected to attend Sharpton’s breakfast gala in Washington with his wife, Drum Major Institute president Arndrea Waters King, who will be honored alongside former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Monday afternoon in New York City, Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network, will convene more than 30 prominent state and local elected officials for a public policy forum at the House of Justice, his organization’s headquarters in Harlem.
In the decades since its inception, the King’s Holiday has become an opportunity for elected officials and candidates seeking office to prove their civil rights and social justice credentials. Bernice King said partisanship among politicians has been a major obstacle to legislative solutions for civil rights.
To overcome that, “you have to be elevated to a place where your loyalty is to humanity, not to party,” she said.
“If we don’t find humane ways to create policies and implement practices from those policies, we will continue in this vicious cycle of a downward spiral toward destruction and chaos.”
Outside of established politics, many King holiday weekend events are opportunities for Americans to give back, reflect on the legacy of the civil rights icon, or locally address racial discrimination in their own communities.
A huge monument to Martin Luther King Jr. will be inaugurated Friday in Boston, where the leader first met his wife, Coretta Scott King. In the early 1950s, he was a doctoral student in theology at Boston University and she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.
The $10 million sculpture called “The Embrace,” consisting of four intertwined arms, was inspired by a photo of the kings embracing as King Jr. learned that it had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. It was designed by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group and was selected from 126 proposals.
Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of EmbraceBoston, the organization behind the memorial, noted the importance of the statue’s placement in Boston Common, America’s oldest public park and a highly-trafficked area with millions of city residents and visitors traversing the trails each year. walk.
“I think Boston has a reputation for being this city of heroes and abolitionists, like WEB Du Bois and Frederick Douglas, at the same time as having a reputation for not being friendly and in some cases being described as racist. So there is a tension between these two images of Boston. Having the memorial is part of our intent to transform the perspective of our city.
In Akron, Ohio, the family of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old black man who was killed after police officers shot him 46 times as he fled last July, will hold a symposium on public safety and mental health with local civil rights leaders on Saturday. Walker’s case received a lot of attention from activists, including the King family.
And for the seventh year, the WK Kellogg Foundation will celebrate a National Day of Racial Healing following King’s Day. On Tuesday, communities across the country will hold town halls to continue the healing dialogue the foundation says is needed to achieve racial equality.
“No matter who you are, there is a journey of healing that everyone should consider,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, CEO of the Kellogg Foundation. “We’ve all been affected by racism.”
The Bharat Express News writer Mark Pratt in Boston contributed.
Aaron Morrison is a New York City-based member of the TBEN’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aaronlmorrison.