Martin Luther King’s birthday is one of only two recognized as a national holiday. His name is honored by numerous schools, government buildings, streets and highways. It is sometimes easy to forget that in his time, King was a radical reformer who was widely criticized.
King should be remembered as the radical that he was. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” is a powerful and unapologetic defense of the strategy and tactics behind his movement. His speech at Riverside Baptist Church in 1967 is one of the most eloquent and persuasive arguments in favor of ending the war in Vietnam
His call for justice was based not solely on race but class. King called for a “radical redistribution of economic and political power.” King’s views evolved over time from a race-centered perspective to a class-based world view.
King was with the striking sanitation workers in Memphis when he was killed. His next great project was to be the Poor Peoples Campaign, a movement including all races and religions. King was building the campaign to take down the forces that were keeping millions of Americans locked in gut wrenching poverty. Sadly the movement fizzled upon his death.
If King were alive today he would be with the Walmart workers fighting for a living wage. He would have been on the picket line with the Verizon workers and the Chicago teachers. He would have been in Wisconsin when the workers rose up and he would have been in Zuccotti Park with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Remember Martin Luther King Jr. as the radical leader that he was.
Michael E. Lynch Jr.
Lynch represents the Fourth Ward on the Oneonta Common Council.