Do you celebrate Martin Luther King Day? Belize joins you!
On the third Monday of January, all of us here at Chaa Creek join the world in observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and this year, with the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, the day takes on a particular significance and poignancy.
We may have lost two great icons of equal rights, but their legacy lives on, and the world is a much better place because of them.
This is the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr Day – that each year everything he stood for is remembered and passed on to more and more people. In a world where strife has become commonplace, the non-violent activism Doctor King espoused stands out as something to be not only remembered, but embraced as a way of life.
Imagine living in the world that Doctor King, Gandhi and Mandela envisioned. A world where, as Bob Marley put it, the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes, and where everyone has equal access to opportunity and the freedom to pursue their dreams.
Remembering His Life and legacy
Martin Luther King, Jr was born on January 15, 1929 and became a civil rights activist early in life, so that by 1955 he was leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal moment in the struggle for equal rights in the US. He then helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957 and became its first president, organising nonviolent protests throughout the then racially segregated US southern states, often at great peril to his own life and safety.
In 1963 Dr King helped organise the famous March on Washington, where he delivered the moving “I Have a Dream” speech, which firmly established him as one of the greatest orators in history. From that moment on, the eyes of the world were upon him.
The following years were tumultuous for America and Dr King, who was the subject of FBI investigations and various forms of harassment as he expanded his protests to include poverty and the war in Vietnam, which won him even greater support among university students and the white community. As his non-violent protests expanded in scope, so did his influence and support base around the world, so that on October 14, 1964, Dr King received the Nobel Peace Prize.
On April 4 1968 Dr King was working toward his vision of the “Poor People’s Campaign”, a national occupation of Washington DC, when he was cut down on the balcony of a Memphis, Tennessee motel room by an assassin’s bullet.
His death touched off riots across the United States, and, like President John F Kennedy’s, is still the subject of many debates and conspiracy theories.
We’ll probably never know exactly what happened on that dark day in Memphis, but far from silencing King, his killer made him a martyr for peace and helped spread his reputation and message. To us, that is the mark of true greatness – that a person’s message and actions live on and continue to contribute to humanity well after they are gone.
Martin Luther King Jr Day is now a US federal holiday, observed on the third Monday of January each year, to coincide with the time around Dr King’s birthday, January 15. It is also observed in several countries and cities around the world, including Hiroshima, Japan, and Toronto, Canada.
Today Dr King is revered throughout multicultural Belize, where he continues to be a symbol of everything that makes this country stand out as a nation where people are judged by their words and deeds rather than the colour of their skin or their origins.
And that is why we ask our many friends around the world to take a moment out on this third Monday of January to remember this great man and think about his main message – that change can come about, and that the world can become a better place through nonviolent action and a belief in the essential goodness of humanity.
To paraphrase another believer in peace and nonviolence; “You may say that we are dreamers, but we’re not the only ones…”
One Love. Peace.