On Monday, January 19th, the nation will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King. In Philadelphia, a broad-based coalition will remember the drum major for justice by reclaiming his legacy and marching for justice, jobs and education.
The #ReclaimMLK coalition is moving beyond the sanitized version of Dr. King (Full Disclosure: I’m a member of the planning committee). We are taking back the King Holiday and organizing MLK D.A.R.E. (MLK Day of Action, Resistance and Empowerment). At least 10,000 demonstrators are expected to take to the streets on the day of action and agitation.
The #ReclaimMLK coalition’s demands include an end to stop-and-frisk, an independent police review board, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a fair funding formula for public schools and a democratically-elected school board.
It’s only fitting that we open our doors in light of the role of the Black Church during the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, our founder Bishop Richard Allen opened these doors in 1817 for the first large scale, national demonstration of free African Americans.
On Saturday, more than 40,000 gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Justice for All march against police violence.
Earlier in the week, a group of black mothers who lost children to police violence met to “tell their stories and advocate for changing existing laws that leave families vulnerable to police brutality and accountability loopholes.” They, too, called for Congressional hearings on police brutality and federal legislation authorizing special prosecutors to investigate police shootings.
Nearly 60 years ago, another black mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, grieved for the racially-motivated murder of her son.
Emmitt Till was murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The acquittal of the two white men charged with his murder shocked the conscience of the nation. The verdict paved the way for the Department of Justice to intervene in local law enforcement cases when civil rights are violated, as well as the Civil Rights Movement.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I visited the tree that was planted in memory of Emmett Till on the U.S. Capitol Grounds. It wasn’t easy to find. No one knew the tree had been planted, let alone where it was located. So my friend and I walked the 274 acres in search of the tree. I finally stumbled upon it. You can imagine my dismay to discover it’s located in the middle of a parking lot.
Actually, when I first read the marker, I didn’t realize it was the Emmett Till tree. I thought it was for a new tree species or in honor of Sen. Susan Collins.
I had to get on my knees to read the small print:
To honor Emmett Till, a young African-American man whose brutal killing in 1955 raised public awareness that led to civil rights reforms.
Frankly, this so-called honor is more about Collins than Emmett Till. If you share my concern the marker does not do justice to his legacy, then say something via Twitter (@SenatorCollins), email or by phone at (202) 224-2523.
Perhaps by the 60th anniversary of his murder, there will be a marker befitting Emmitt Till’s place in American history.
The Ferguson grand jury is still deliberating on whether to charge Police Officer Darren Wilson in shooting death of Michael Brown or send him on his merry way.
When the verdict is announced, groups will hit the street with all deliberate speed. The Ferguson National Response Network is curating after-the-verdict events nationwide. The FBI, National Guard and police departments across the country are getting ready. So are social justice activists.
Tuesday is Election Day. You know the mantra: Our ancestors died for the right to die. It’s your civic responsibility. It could be a lot worse. Vote for the lesser of two evils. This is the most important election since [fill in the blank].
If you’re unsure of the location of your polling place, hours of operation or who’s on the ballot, there’s an app for that -- Get to the Polls.
While I’m a voting rights activist, I understand why many are skeptical about the efficacy of voting. It seems like little ever changes for the better. Yes, your vote is your voice. But the change you want doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.
Turning out to vote is the first step. But civic engagement is a process, not an event. Truth be told, elected officials want you to go away after you vote for them. To make a difference, you must stay engaged after Election Day.
You also must hold those for whom you vote accountable. No elected official should be given a pass simply because he or she looks like you.