Remembering the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

by Omolola Suleiman

Illustration by Juliana Giraldo

When reflecting upon the history of America and what shaped it, one has to consider the many figures who aided in its transformation into the country it is today. A specific time in its history books that strikes across many nerves is the Civil Rights Era where the country was divided to the point where violence and war ensued. However, this time wasn’t only filled with disagreements of politics and the bloody fists that followed it, but those who had the bravery to speak out against the many social injustices that African Americans were subjected to at the time, including the still greatly revered Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia to a family of respected pastors. King soon followed the legacy of his father and grandfather by becoming a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama where he made a name for himself by speaking out in support of non violence demonstrations and boycotts. The following steps were considered powerful acts of bravery at the time because many attempted to silence his voice by bombing his house or committing other acts of violence. However, the sudden attention only brought more light to his cause as he soon rose to become a leader of the Civil Rights movement. King traveled around the country organizing peaceful marches and delivering powerful addresses, including the now famous “I Have A Dream” speech. 

King’s life tragically came to an end after he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Although his life ended, the impact that his words made did not. Soon after, other African Americans began to lead the Civil Rights movement, closely following in the footsteps of King by taking on his non violence approach to social change. In modern day America, King stands as a household name as many of us grow up learning about the hero’s tribulations in school and within our own homes.  King was awarded a national holiday not long after his death which continues to be celebrated on his birthday. Many hold parades and festivities to honor his life story and many accomplishments. 

Since the time of King, America has slowly progressed forward with many slowly, but steadily gaining civil rights and liberties. However, although we have greatly improved as a nation, with recent events taking place it is obvious that we can do much better. The recent divide and tension between political parties will surely disappoint King as will the spike in police brutality towards the African American community. However, he would be gracious to see diversity beginning to really take off in not only schools, but in film and congress. If he was here today, he would get to see young children of different races and ethnicities attend the same school and receive the same fair treatment in education. He would also get to witness the American people using their voices to speak whenever they are subjected to a social injustice. 

It is important for the younger generations to keep the legacy of important hero’s such as Martin Luther King Jr. alive. We can’t let the information stay planted only in the textbooks, but it must follow us everywhere in the back of our minds. Always remember that we are lucky to be a part of the “free world”, and that some people don’t even get to taste freedom for even a second in their lives. That so many have lost their lives in an effort to provide for us a better life where we don’t have to go to school worrying about getting treated differently from everyone else. Where you are free to pursue any job that you want to with the mindset that you can also be great one day by following the path that so many have laid out for you. 

With that to consider, as this year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. day approaches, make it a point to educate oneself on why exactly this day is celebrated and why exactly King among other historical figures needs to be remembered.