BENJAMIN CHAVIS, JR.

(NNPA)—As the world community observes and celebrates the 89th birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is important for Black America to assess how far we have come 50 years since the tragic brutal assassination of Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee of April 4, 1968.

As a young worker for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), under the visionary leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. from 1963-1968 in North Carolina, I still have many vivid memories. I remember Dr. King’s admonition to “Stay focused on building an inclusive beloved community, and to not let evil in high places divert us from the pathway that will ensure freedom, justice and equality for all.”

Today, as we acknowledge and pay tribute to Dr. King’s freedom-fighting legacy, there are 47 million African Americans in the United States and more than a billion people of African descent in Africa, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia and in other places throughout the African diaspora. We are all called to remain vigilant and vocal in our unified demands for freedom, economic empowerment and equality.

Let no vulgar utterance of “shithole,” racist rhetoric or arrogant actions by evil in powerful high places divert our attention and focus from what we should be doing to continue our long struggle for liberation from centuries of abject oppression, slavery, poverty and racism. Dr. King, in his final years, had to consistently remind us that our struggle was local, national and international. One of King’s most famous quotes was, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As we reflect and renew our commitments to the dream and activism of Dr. King, we dare not become complacent or satisfied with the status quo of economic inequality and racial disparity in the U.S. and throughout the world. We dare not become comfortable with the growing unnatural climate disasters caused by environmental injustices and global warming.

We dare not fall asleep amidst the welcomed resurgence of youth and student activism who know so well the contradictions of the evils of police brutality, mass incarceration, healthcare inadequacies, unemployment and too-low wages, and failing educational systems in a nation that has an abundant concentration of wealth at the very top levels of society.

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