Amid attempts to whitewash MLK’s legacy, activists revive his radical dream

Martin Luther King
Michael Vick

It’s that time of year again when politicians and pundits alike pretend to champion the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr while not making clear exactly what they think that legacy is. But even as conservatives and ‘centrists’ try, and fail, to make themselves seem like heirs to King’s movement, activists are organizing to make his radical dream a reality.

The White House chimes in

On the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, conservatives have latched onto him in generic terms, whitewashing his radical socialist vision.

Not one to lose an opportunity to jump on a trending topic, US President Donald Trump tweeted a video in praise of King:

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US Vice-President Mike Pence, who tweeted nearly two hours before Trump’s video appeared, also spoke of honoring King’s dream:

Missing from both tweets was any mention of exactly what King’s dream was or how to achieve it.

Liberals play the same game

Not to be outdone, some liberals among #TheResistance took to Twitter on the anniversary of King’s murder to share their thoughts on his dream. Among them was Scott Dworkin, a regular fixture on MSNBC and co-founder of the Democratic Coalition, a Super PAC to resist Trump.

As with the Trump and Pence tweets, Dworkin’s lacks any context for what King had planned in the months leading up to his assassination.

In January, meanwhile, independent journalist and activist Geoff Campbell uncovered evidence he says shows Dworkin used money raised for his SuperPAC to line his own pocket. And self-serving pundits were hardly King’s idea of leaders:

Leftists speak out on King’s legacy

Geoff Campbell also tweeted today in memory of King, but the tweet focused more specifically on the late civil rights icon’s radical economic vision.

What was that radical vision? Adam Johannes, an activist based in Wales, states it plainly. King, he says, had a plan to end poverty before an assassin’s bullet snuffed him out:

By the end of his life, King had embraced a more radical vision, calling for democratic socialism and an end to the Vietnam War.

King’s plan to end poverty

Shortly before his murder, King had planned a ‘Poor People’s Campaign,’ a march and encampment in Washington to demand housing and a guaranteed income:

Poor People’s Campaign flier
Original ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ flier

King died before he could lead the campaign.

Though it carried on without him, King’s death shifted the focus and dulled the momentum of the movement. The campaign largely failed to meet its goals.

New movement honors King’s legacy

50 years later, activists are organizing a new movement under the same name, and hope to finally fulfill on the promise of King’s dream.

Instead of generic calls to honor King with words, we should join groups looking to carry them out with action.

Get Involved!

– To join the ‘Poor People’s Campaign,’ visit their website, Twitter and Facebook pages.

Featured image via Rowland Scherman; restored by Adam Cuerden/Wikimedia Commons

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