Local residents reflect on MLK’s impact 50 years after his death.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He was killed in 1968 at the age of 39 after being shot by James Earl Ray while standing on the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. King was in town supporting a Black sanitation workers strike.
King is America’s foremost civil rights leader of all time and is credited with integrating the nation.
Still, today many of the ills that existed during his time exist today. There is ongoing civil unrest. Americans are marching against racial profiling, police brutality, social injustice, racism, and injustice in the judicial system. There are also discriminatory practices still reported when it comes to employment, education and voting rights.
Area residents sounded off this week on where they think we are as a people and nation in regards to King’s fight for civil rights and his dream.
Tunisia Armstrong, a teacher, reflected, “Dr. King’s biggest dream was for his children to be in a diverse community, educational system and more. We’ve moved forward as for that. At the same time, there are some things that have not changed.
“We as African-Americans have opportunities in education, housing, employment and voting, for example, but we don’t get fair treatment. The resources for us aren’t the same.
“They still pigeonholed us within those confines. They find ways to add extra restrictions and extra requirements that our White counterparts don’t have too. Racial profiling still exists. Our children are followed in stores even when they have money. Blacks are still disciplined harder in schools and the justice system for same offenses as White counterparts and so on.’’
‘Getting out of hand’
Shorty Williams remarked, “Dr. King was a great Black man. He helped brought us to where we are today as a people and nation. He believed everyone should have equal opportunity and freedom. I’m glad that he did what he did. I’m not happy that he got killed.
“It’s unfortunate that some things are getting out of hand as of injustice and violence. We need more Blacks in business, politics, education and other aspects of society that will speak up and make sure that things are right for everyone,’’ he added.
‘Be more proactive’
Even local college students weighed in.
“In regards to his death 50 years later, I feel that a lot of people are now realizing how corrupt our government has always been. It’s not too many African-Americans or anybody that could lead like he could. He was one of the most unique leaders ever,’’ said Bethune-Cookman University junior Quay Myers.
“Things have gotten better, but we still have a long way to go. We as African-Americans need to know – some things we can’t control, but others we can. We need to be more proactive in policing our own and protecting our own. We need more of us in law enforcement, corrections and the judicial system so that we can ensure equality. We should do more to improve our communities and ourselves.’’
‘Build our own wealth’
Bethune-Cookman University junior Ean Allen echoed, “Fifty years after his death, I don’t think that we have more freedom, but we do have more opportunities. We’re integrated in society.
“The Black community needs to come together instead of bringing each other down. We still have inequality. It seems that if you’re Black, and especially Black and poor, that opportunities are harder to come by.
“I feel that we should do more for ourselves and build our own wealth. We spent $1 billion going to see the ‘Black Panther’ movie. We could take that money and build our own schools, hospitals, infrastructure, corporations, and more.”
Nurse Lisa Madison expressed, “I’m glad that he did what he did for us. I try to teach my children those values of equality, sacrifice and humility, but honestly, it’s sad to see that all these years after MLK’s death, the state of us as a people and country.
“Black people can vote but many don’t exercise that right. We are still fighting violence and oppression from the government and law enforcement and the KKK is still beating and killing us.’’