at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
As I recall the days in 1963 there were very few organizations where people could join to voice their collective voices about racial injustices. However NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center and others worked very hard to create more interest and provide a platform for concerned citizens to get involved. At the time, a young minister Martin Luther King, Jr, created an atmosphere educating the public about the racial injustices permeating our society. My impression of him was his ability to organize and attract a diverse group of people and travel to large metropolitan areas to uplift the poor and unemployed. One of his major issues was to find employment for the poor and downtrodden. He was a voice for the powerless and those who had no voice. I traveled with a group from Buffalo to Washington and we were encouraged to not just know about the injustices but to return to our communities to speak out about those same injustices. MLK provided a model for speaking to elected officials about injustices that I still use today when visiting legislators. He articulated the needs to the poor better than anyone else I have known in my history in the peace movement. Remember because of this event we did go back to our communities and visited our elected officials to strongly encourage them to pass just laws. It was 1964 that the civil rights laws were passed so this march had a profound effect on our nation.
I also had the privilege of attending Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York city where he gave his famous “Beyond Vietnam- A time to Break Silence”.
Another issue MLK was very concerned about was educating the poor and minorities, white, and black, all poor. To me his clearest message was that we each have a responsibility to be involved in how our government is being run and to be reminded that the poor must always be considered in our resources spent. Children in poorer school districts and neighborhoods have the right to receive a quality education just as rich and powerful neighborhoods and communities.
I am sorry we cannot attend this wonderful event with you. My hope was also (if Congress had been in session) to take you with me to visit some California legislators and speak to them about these issues that were so dear to Martin Luther King. The task continues. The same journey of responsibility goes on and we must continue to be the voice for the poor and the powerless because that is the only way change can take place.
People like this are what gives me hope in our species, our future, no matter how bleak it may often seem.