Watertown— “This is a very interesting and unique year” said Martin Luther King III, set to speak at Jefferson Community College February 23rd. “It is a year of anniversaries, as it relates to the modern civil rights movement. So, it gives us an opportunity to look at the progress we’ve made.”
January 1st, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln 150 years ago. Though not totally eradicating slavery immediately, it was the beginning of the end to slavery as it declared, “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states ”are and henceforth shall be free.”
“This is the 45th anniversary of the Sanitation Workers' Strike in Memphis, Tennessee where my Father lost his life” said Mr. King III. This would also be the 45th anniversary of the 1968, Poor People’s Campaign, a human rights move where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters attempted to address a multiracial issue, focused on abating poverty regardless of race.
“My Father would not live to see the Poor People's Campaign come to fruition” said Mr. King III, “but this would be the 50th anniversary from the Birmingham jail, where Dad wrote that letter encouraging the clergymen to get involved in the modern civil rights movement.” Mr. King III went on remind that August 28th would mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
This year also marks the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights activists, Medgar Evers who was killed right after President Kennedy’s speech in support for civil rights. “These anniversaries, which will be taking place throughout the year, gives us an opportunity to look back and see where we are today. These are incidences that occurred within the life of our society, we need to understand where we stand when it comes to issues of modern civil rights and justice”, said King.
King told ABC50 that as a society today, we are much closer to the vision his Father had for this country. Martin Luther King Jr’s. main concerns is what he considered the three evils: racism, poverty, and violence. “When it comes to race, we have made tremendous strides, but we still have some ways to go,” said King recalling at 10 years old, finding out his Father had been killed from a news broadcast. 50 years later, Mr. King III still says that his Father’s death was the single most traumatic experience in his life. However, his Father’s legacy continues to inspire him in all that he does. “Although we are closer to racial equality, it seems we have digressed when it comes to poverty. We’re supposed to be the greatest economic power house in the world, yet we’ve got 60 million people living in poverty,” said King.
King hopes to address issues of race, poverty and violence at his speaking engagement this Saturday at JCC. One way King feels that the nation can reduce poverty is to continue to encourage higher education and entrepreneurship.
According to King, the rise of poverty is not as alarming as the rise in violence within our society today. “My Dad was very poignant about trying to eradicate violence. We are seeing an epidemic incidence of violence in our nation, so we have a lot of work to do in that area.” Along the lines of violence, King told ABC50 that his Father did not believe in violence as a way to achieve social ends.
Like the late Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. King III explained how groups such as the Black Panthers were counter productive because arming themselves with guns did not project a productive message. “My Father used to say that violence and hostility is the language of the unheard” said King, “so if you don’t give people the opportunity to be heard and they feel their concerns are not heard, then they use tactics that may not be the most effective.”
Martin Luther King III told ABC50 that he enjoys taking the opportunity to speak to not only Ivy League Universities and large cities, but smaller communities as well. “My Father wanted the best for his children, but never expected us to follow in his footsteps” said King. “My mother basically said that she wanted me to be the best Martin that I can be. That I didn’t have to be my Father, I didn’t have to go to Morehouse College, I didn’t have to be a civil rights leader and I didn’t have to be a minister.”
He didn’t become minister, but Mr. King III did attend Morehouse and is actively engaged in the civil rights movement. Inspired by the legacy of his parents, Mr. King III not only will discuss racism, poverty, and violence at JCC, but hopes to motivate college students to be the best that they can be.