On this third Monday of January, we find ourselves celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights activist. Dr. King had a strong belief in equality for all American citizens that was not seen in the 1950s and 1960s, unfortunately. From segregation at the lunch counters and public restrooms to non-integrated schools, the American South was the battle ground to launch a movement to end racial segregation and Dr. King was at the forefront.
Dr. King used his great oration skills to energize people to follow him for change in America. He mobilized people who feared that their lives could be in jeopardy if they challenged the status quo but understood that they must do so regardless. He negotiated with politicians and government officials for basic, Constitutional rights to be extended to everyone via comprehensive laws and policies. Dr. King revealed to the world the ugliness of racism in America by leading non-violent acts of civil disobedience and allowing the media to watch as policeman and citizens attacked and brutalized the activists on live television.
Dr. King’s and fellow activists’ relentless efforts of fighting for human rights and pushing for legislature changes resulted in sweeping changes in policies. These efforts saw the signing of a Civil Rights Bill, ending of legalized segregation, integrated schools, and implementation of the Voting Rights Act.
In his 13 short years of activism, Dr. King and many other Civil Rights leaders were instrumental in transforming the American psyche and its attitudes towards people of color. Their work helped generations that follow have the opportunity to attend different universities, seek better primary and secondary school education, and have more law-makers in Congress of color. Much was done in the 1950s and 1960s but there is still yet more to do. America is not done transforming, it has not reached the place of true equality, it has some work to do. It is the responsibility of the American people to continue to push forward, recognize that certain groups are not being afforded the same rights as others, and work change it for the better.
There are many groups (both organized and mobilized) that are working to see these changes, not just for people of color but also for the LGBTQ community, and those of different religions. We must remove the blinders from our eyes and recognize the work that is still needed. Then, we need to dive in and help make the changes in our communities, organizations, companies, and country NOW.
Let’s continue to make America better, let us not become complacent with the status quo. We have the ability to make the change, let’s change it now.
Sheena Hunt, CEO of Empowered Strategy