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Keyword: martin luther king

charcoal drawing of Dr. KingOrrester Shaw, Education Liaison for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

I will never forget when I first learned of the assassination of Dr. King. I was in my sophomore year at Morgan State, and as I was walking to the campus library to put the final changes on a research paper. Suddenly, one of my classmates informed me that Dr. King had been killed, gunned down as he stood on a balcony in Memphis.

I could not believe it. Later, I heard other students sharing the very same horrific news, many of them weeping, almost if one of their own immediate family members had been killed. Our nation has not been the same since that tragedy took place on the 4th day of April in 1968. I am not sure we ever will be the same again.

In my entire life, other than the assassination of President John Kennedy, I cannot remember any other time when this nation was impacted by an event to that degree. As I recall, there were mass riots, lootings and much unrest in every major city in the United States. Neighborhood stores were closed and ransacked. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “During the riots after Martin Luther King Jr.'s killing, 350 people were arrested for looting and published accounts say nine to 11 people died.”

Over the following few days and weeks, more than 100 cities would experience significant civil disturbances. National Guard troops were dispatched to bring peace, and in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. —it took thousands of active Army and Marine units to restore a sense of calm.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. King has become a national icon in the history of American progressivism. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the source of hope, pride and dignity for people of color. He stood for freedom, equality and fairness for all people. His message moved people from all races to work together for a better society. The American civil rights movement that he spearheaded changed the culture of our nation and created an awareness that our country needed and still needs today.

Moreover, the most amazing and significant take-away of Dr. King’s legacy is that all of this was accomplished through non-violence. It is for this reason and so many other overwhelming reasons that we now celebrate Dr. King’s birthday. When I think about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, I am reminded of one of my favorite songs of worship, “If I Can Help Somebody.”

                                             If I Can Help Somebody

If I can help somebody
As I travel along
If I can help somebody
With a word or song
If I can help somebody
From doing wrong
My living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain
My living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody
While I'm singing this song
My living shall not be in vain.

In 1983, Congress passed legislation that was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan recognizing Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday. Illinois was the first state to adopt Dr. King’s birthday as a holiday, and the state of my own mother’s birth, South Carolina, was the very last state to commemorate this great man.


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