There are those that believe the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Four decades after civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Black people are still facing many of the same issues as then. Low standards for education, high levels of unemployment, police brutality, and an “unjust war” overseas, all added with the ever increasing costs of living in the Big Apple, have many people feeling as if not much progress has been made since the turbulent ‘60s.
Throughout the many tribulations of his life, King spoke on a variety of topics ranging from physical freedom, to the deadly bombing of a church in Birmingham in which four young Black girls were killed, to the Vietnam War.
But in recent years, Dr. King’s vision has been relegated to just one grand speech - “I Have A Dream”. Rev. King addressed many social injustices that plagued Black communities across America, but the “Dream” dissertation is the one that continuously gets force-fed into the stream of public consciousness.
“As long as you keep the masses singing, clapping and dreaming, without taking action, you’re okay!” expressed street merchant Lajik 5 Allah. “When King spoke about economics in his ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech, they killed him. We’re still being classified as second-class citizens in a land that we built. We have a human right to fight for self-determination, which is also what King was fighting for.”
Dr. King’s work reached beyond the segregated South where he was raised. On June 23rd 1963 in Detroit, Michigan, King addressed the audience: “Almost one hundred years ago…Abraham Lincoln signed
an executive order which was to take effect on January 1,1863. This executive order was called the Emancipation Proclamation and it served to free the Negro from the bondage of physical slavery. But one-hundred years later, the Negro in the United States of America isn’t free.”
He delivered his ’Beyond Vietnam’ lecture at Harlem’s Riverside Church on April 4,1967, exactly 365 days before he was mortally wounded in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in the time of war,” Rev. King emphatically stated. “There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America.”
He continued, “And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”