Martin Luther King, III challenges Americans to unite and fight for worker’s rights

“Stop making my father an idol, rather embrace his ideals”



By Chinta Strausberg


Reflecting on the 43rd anniversary of his father’s assassination, Martin Luther King, III, the son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunday urged followers to unite in the battle to save collective bargaining rights of workers across this nation,  but he also challenged them to stop making his father an idol but rather embrace and teach others his ideals.


On Monday, King will join labor leaders in Atlanta “because workers are being attacked. The right of collective bargaining is being attacked by misguided leadership that believes they have the interests of people in mind but are yet creating an additional burden.“


Referring to his father who was killed while standing on the Lorraine Motel balcony in Memphis, TN, King said his father was there to support the sanitation workers.


 He said his father was in Memphis in support of the black striking sanitation workers. “Those men were also members of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.


“It is in order that tomorrow the nation will be organize around stating we’re going to continue to work to protect the notion of collective bargaining and to stand up for the rights of workers across America,” he stated.


King said his father was a “man of action” and would want his supporters to be engaged in social action on Monday. He reflected on this past January saying it was the 25th anniversary of the federal Dr. King holiday.  “We started in January with the observance of the holiday. Tomorrow is the observance of the assassination, and on August 28th, we will dedicate the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in our nation’s capitol.”


Referring to the site where his father’s memorial will be erected, King said, “in between presidents and war memorials now will exist a memorial for a man of peace,” he told a cheering crowd.


King said this monument may “help to create some severe change. We talk change, but we really don’t always create change.”


In talking about what has transpired over the past 25-years and why it is important to continue to embrace the message of his father, King said it is critical that his father’s supporters to continue and embrace Dr. King’s message.


In remembering his father, King said he was a Christian minister who “fervently believes he was doing only the work that God wanted him to do.


For the last 25-years, King said, “We’ve witnessed the triumph of the digital revolution with the Internet…transforming access to limitless information. We’ve gone from the novelty of bulky desk top computers to the eloquent of light weight note pads, iPads….”


King said, “We’ve witnessed progress in man’s un-relentless march towards freedom. We’ve seen the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the rise of black majority rule in South Africa. We’ve gone from the election of President Ronald Reagan to the election of President Barack Obama.”


“Given the momentous changes that have occurred over the past quarter of a century, it’s appropriate to raise the question, ‘Is it still important for the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. to persist.”


King said when Obama was elected “some thought we were free…we’ve gone to the promise land.” The truth is, King said, “We made a significant step, but we’re no where near the achievement of the dream that Martin Luther King envisioned.”


“Despite the wonderful changes we’ve seen,” King said his father’s leadership and message are needed “now perhaps more than ever in our nation and in our world.”


As an example, King referred to January 8, 2011 when Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head and six died including a judge and a 9-year-old girl.  King called the shooting an example of how “senseless violence works” and said it is reminiscent of similar violence in Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, and D.C.


“In every major city of this nation we see us killing us, and they too aren’t doing anything about that and again your pastor is,” King said referring to Pfleger who continues to march against violence, go to Springfield to oppose liberal gun legislation and issue $5,000 rewards for the killers of children.


“We see hate being promoted through the airwaves,” he said. “When a person’s sexual orientation remains a barrier to full civil equality, there is a very real factor sometimes of brutality and even death. It says we’re in trouble as a nation and when every one of our inner cities continue to be plague by this violence….


“When the Great Recession threatens to make permanent the pain of the underclass and expand this suffering to the previously protected middleclass, it’s clear to me that the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. is needed and is essential,” said King.


In reflecting on personal moments he had with his father, King told how his Dr. King took him to his first grade class in Atlanta and when he bought he and his brother their first bike. “I reflect on these things because they remind me of Martin Luther King, Jr., the man, the father, the husband, not the Martin Luther King leading great marches, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial, sleeping on cold tenement floors here in the chill of Chicago….


“I believe it is a tendency to put him on a pedestal far away on a cloud where nobody can touch him, nobody can reach him and nobody can reach him and nobody can be like him,” King said calling his father a great man who was his hero.


“Sometimes I think there is too much emphasis placed on Martin Luther King, Jr. the idol and not the ideas of Martin Luther King.” He said it is important to have the national holiday of his father, the soon-to-be-unveiled monument in D.C. and the King Center in Atlanta.


“While we commemorated the birthday in January, let us not confuse nor forgot what he stood for and died for. Let us not forget the ideals he gave up his life for. Let us not bury the peace and love that he lived for so this country and the world would be a better place,” said King.


Saying his father stood for education, King said 43-years later “our educational system is abysmal.” He pointed to the high dropout rates and the seemingly unconcern about this plight. “We don’t understand why we are being left behind with an economic collapse. The educational system has to be reformed.”


As an example, King said history is not taught accurately. “History is taught wrong. We teach history from a western and European perspective, which is OK, but it excludes Native or Indians. It excludes Latino and Hispanic people. It excludes Asian Americans and it excludes African Americans.


“Until our history is inclusive of every ethnic group that makes up the population of our nation, we’re missing the mark,” said King. “We are being defeated at this time where the global economy is nearly collapsed. Competition is becoming keener from China, Russia and Brazil. American is not playing its ‘A-Team.’”


“If America wants to win, we must compete in the global economy. We have to start putting the best players on the field. That means we have to start educating young African Americans, young Hispanics and Latinos, and young whites from underprivileged backgrounds so that they can compete with all people, all nationalities all over the world. We got to put our best players on the field,” King said.


King said his father believed in decent housing. Later Sunday, King, along with the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC), dedicated the affordable 45-unit Dr. King Legacy Apartments at 1550 S. Hamlin where the King family once lives for a month back in 1966.


Before he became president up the King Center, he headed up the “Realizing the Dream” where he visited 40 communities documenting poverty in an effort to raise the consciousness of poverty.  Referring to Dr. King’s talking about the three evils of poverty, racism and militarism, King said, “We got to eradicate those evils if our nation is going to become what it ought to become….”


With nearly 3 million foreclosures were filed and a potential of 1.2 million homeowners may lose their homes, King said he believes the president should call for a moratorium on foreclosures. “Nobody in America should have to lose their home. Everybody is struggling except the super wealthy and wealth disparity has reached the same level as it did before the Great Depression…. We got to stop the bleeding in the housing industry.”


“We cannot afford to keep tax breaks to the wealthy while we try to break the backs of the poor and middle class Americans as they continue to struggle day-to-day with no identifiable relief in sight,” King said.


“My father believed in justice, but if you go to Cook County or Fulton County of Atlanta, Georgia looking for justice all you’ll find, as the late great Richard Pryor would say, just us…a sad commentary….” “The justice system is broken,” King said explaining that most of the more than 2.2 million behind bars are black and Hispanic.


But, King said, “Our bible tells us if we train up a child in the way they should go when that child is old they will not depart from that training and some have abandoned their roles of raising our children.”


King quickly pointed a finger towards the government as well. “We don’t have appropriate indigent care. We don’t have enough attorneys to represent those accused of crimes. We have to shore up the indigent defense system.”


He said Americans grow up in a “culture of violence… We consume a diet of negativity. Until we top allowing our children to watch any and everything and change the music we allow our children to listen to….” King said parents must take control of their homes and make their children abide by their rules.


King said of the past, there were songs of hope, peace, dignity, respect and love; however, today he said today’s violence is frightening with people afraid to leave their home or sometimes stay in their homes. “We can’t blame all of this on young folks. We got to take some responsibilities ourselves if we’re going to turn this thing around. We have to get engaged.”


Referring to Saint Sabina, King said, “You know what your church does. Can you imagine if a thousands churches would do what you are doing? It takes bold leadership. It takes uncompromising leadership. It takes fearless leadership. It takes leadership that is determined and dependable and dedicated and we can change communities.”


King said he would soon unveil a youth non-violence initiatives “that teach and train young people how to live together without destroying personal property. That is the philosophy of non-violence. We saw non-violence raise its beautiful head in Egypt and removed Mr. Mubarak.


“We see people who are oppressed and suppressed rising up all over the world.” Referring to the violence occurring in Libya, King said, “We as a nation are somewhat behind helping to perpetuate some of that violence. The forces that want to bring about change and get rid of Mr. Gaddafi are having to use the same force that he is using and as a result, we are promoting violence and there is no telling when that crisis may end.”


Fearing that more violence will occur around the world, King said, “If you are willing to be committed to non-violence, non-violence will sustain you eternally….”


Having lost his dad at the age of 10, an uncle who mysteriously drowned when he was 11 and his grandmother killed when he was 16, King said, “I had to learn how to forgive so I would not harbor bitterness, hatred and hostility because I could have been angry. I thank God that I had the spirit of love personified my family. That is what I hope I try to emanate….


“It’s time to quit looking at my father as someone who was so pious, so super human that none of the kids could aspire to be like him. We got to stop treating him as an unattainable idol and remember him as truly a man of strength, a man of conviction, a man of integrity, a man of love. These are all ideals that we can all aspire to. These are universal principles that should be taught to our kids….”


King also praised Father Michael L. Pfleger and recognized his long-standing relationship his family has had with the Saint Sabina priest. Referring to the children of Dr. King, he said, “All of us have been blessed to worship and speak at Saint Sabina. It feels like home, but perhaps more than anything else, you know that you have a remarkable pastor and leader,” he told a cheering audience.


“There are communities around America that have grown to love your pastor also because there are very few that we know of; well the list becomes very short when it comes to those to give and give…. I don’t mean just preaching. There are a lot of great preachers. He’s got that down.


“There are some who are good servants who visit the sick…but I’m talking about giving far beyond what the average person does,” said King. “It is the true personification of what a pastor, a leader, a spiritual leader, should be about. My God, can you imagine if we had 100 Father Pfleger’s in America…and that does not diminish any other pastors because there are pastors who are doing great things all around but there is something different about this one.

“God has got, obviously, his hand on Father Mike and Saint Sabina,” King stated.  “So, as you go through the crisis, again, somehow, it’s going to be alright,” King said to a cheering audience.


Saying Saint Sabina “is probably the most unique Catholic ministries in America. There is no other like you. It’s a combination…Father Michael Pfleger and the team that works with him, but it is also…to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower and you also have to have a flock that understands the mission and message and lives by it.


“Very few go through our community…. We talk about drugs but we don’t really close down drug houses because we’re scared and it’s nothing wrong with that. This is just real. When you talk about the absence of fear…when you talk about understanding teaching non-violence what Gandhi and others around the world embrace and practice, Father Michael Pfleger represents that.”


King said what is needed is a plan and said, “We have the power to change and improve our lives…. It’s time to resurrect my father’s ideals, love, peace, harmony, strength, non-violence, cooperation, and unity.


“Don’t put him so far up on a pedestal and throw him in a dark closet all year long except for these special moments like during the holiday, April 4th and then on August 28th and pull him out and dust him off like he is like some kind of ornament….”


For the King Holiday, King said people shouldn’t just eat barbecue, don’t have to go to work “and not reflect on what he stood for and died for. Practice his ideals every minute and every day. Don’t turn your back on your neighbor because you’re to scared to get involved or you just don’t have the time and say it’s their fault for being in the predicament….


“Reach out and help somebody. If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody that they’re traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a Christian, if I can bring salvation to a world, if I can spread the message as the Master taught, then my living will not be in vain. Help somebody,” he bellowed.


“God knows I missed my father. “I was robbed. I was robbed to go to baseball games and basketball games with him. I was robbed of a chance to discuss the complexities of global politics and economics with him and even have him watch me graduate from his and now my alma mater, Morehouse College.


“I’m sick and tired of people singing about King, rapping about King, even using King to justify policies that we all know he would be against as opposed to embracing the ideals of King, trying to love your neighbor like King, trying to help the poor like King and ignoring that which is wrong, like King.


“We can do it. He taught us we can do it. He and a whole lot of people taught us and gave their lives…,” he said of whites, blacks, Christians and Jews who marched with his father.


Referring to Michael Jackson’s record “Man in the Mirror,” King said, “If you want to make the world a better place, look at yourself and make a change for the better. Let’s get engaged in our communities…in America…in our school system. “ King said while we are not quite there, he believes one day his father’s ideals will be achieved.


Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host.