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"King Lives": A Personal Reflection on the Modern Impact of Dr. Martin Luther King's Legacy

By Shantez Tolbut
On April 20, 2011


On Monday, April 4th, 2011, America celebrates a legacy of a constant struggle for social equality, peace, love and justice with the 43rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. When I think of Dr. King, I think of truly loving your enemies. King was not a man of militant violence but a man who enriched the lives of people across races, class, and gender lines through his peaceful interpretations of resistance.

Recently I finished Salvation: Black People and Love by Bell Hooks, in which her work discusses how important it is for black people to love each other in spite of the suffering that we have had to endure while living in a white, imperialist, capitalist, racist, patriarchy. Hooks also shares the center of Dr. King's love ethic as the main ingredient for strategy to succeed in the Civil Rights Movement and beyond regarding the true freedom and equality of humanity.

A question that has been repeatedly asked when regarding King's legacy is "Would King be proud if he was still alive today?" Well, I personally think that he would be. I feel that African-Americans have come a mighty long way. My classmates and friends are going to school and educating themselves, making a better life for future generations. People are more aware of the system than ever, and there has been significant and impressive progress made within communities of color in great efforts to bring people together. Obviously, we still have a ways to go, however, for the Emancipation Proclamation to be issued only 146 years ago is truly astonishing.

I remain amazed at the constant and persistent efforts that the black communities have shown. Battles have been won. I am a product of my ancestor's blood, sweat, and tears. I am a product of courageous souls and extreme sacrifices. I realize that probably just 60 years ago, I would not have been able to write and publish this article. Little time has passed since Jim Crow and lynching was the chosen antidote for the genocide of black people. I owe my life, studies, and creative expressions to the wonderful men and women who risked their lives for me to write this article.

So let's continue to strive for justice, peace, greater good and equality of all people. This battle cannot be won by excluding the LGBTQ and feminist communities; nor can short-changing educators on the important work that they do to educate generations permit victories. Let's remember King's dream and make it ours to claim. Let us relish in the intuitive for an active voice and part in advocating for intersectional change.

The future impact of King's legacy lies in the sweat of our joints as we protest for gay marriage, it hydrates our throats as we rally against harmful immigration laws, it moisturizes our finger tips when dial 911 as a woman is being physical abused by her partner…King lives when we take responsibility and accountability for one another through ACTIVE agency. Dr. King once said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." Individualism can only prosper in a world where oppressive systems don't exist. Only love can fire the harmonic existence of humanity. To believe in human agency is to truly live, reflecting, in realization of a tremendous life lost. I reflect.

Live on Dr. King.

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