Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy Birthday: Martin Luther King Jr.

Today we salute Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who spent many of his days fighting for freedom and equal rights for African Americans in this country. There was more to Dr. King than the classic "I Have A Dream" speech made in Washington D.C. He also made a series of other speeches and had written books addressing the injustices done to people of color here in America.

Most ask, why was he shot and killed if he was one who was non-violent and a symbol of peace? I personally think it had plenty to do with his change of philosophy and outlook on what was really going on, especially after several talks with Malcolm X. In one of Malcolm's speeches he is noted as saying, "You can not be non-violent with anyone....who is violent with us."

In 1980 Stevie Wonder released Hotter Than July that contains "Happy Birthday" in honor of Dr. King and to campaign for Dr. King's birthday to be made a national holiday here in America. The inside sleeve of the album cover has a glossy photo of Dr. King and has text written by Wonder that reads:

It is believed that for a man to lay down his life for the love of others is the supreme sacrifice. Jesus Christ by his own example showed us that there is no greater love. For nearly two thousand years now we have been striving to have the strength to follow that example. Martin Luther King was a man who had that strength. He showed us, non-violently, a better way of life, a way of mutual respect, helping us to avoid much bitter confrontation and inevitable bloodshed. We still have a long road to travel until we reach the world that was his dream. We in the United States must not forget either his supreme sacrifice or that dream.

I and a growing number of people believe that it is time for our country to adopt legislation that will make January 15, Martin Luther King's birthday, a national holiday, both in recognition of what he achieved and as a reminder of the distance which still has to be traveled.

Join me in the observance of January 15, 1981 as a national holiday.

Stevland Morris a/k/a Stevie Wonder

At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. Observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Following President George H. W. Bush's 1992 proclamation, the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King's birthday. On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states.

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