This is a special MLK day. It is a holiday that follows on the heels of the Ferguson non-indictment, on the heels of the Eric Garner non-indictment, among others. It is a day that activists have sought to reclaim the legacy of MLK. It is a day to collectively assert that #BlackLivesMatter.
Although MLK saw civil rights, human rights, and economic rights as intertwined, he argued again and again that black lives mattered. Black lives needed to matter in order to gain civil rights, to end the war in Vietnam, and to gain economic justice for poor and working people. Black lives mattering was a pre-requisite to further struggles for social justice.
This video describes MLK’s 1968 work to support the sanitation workers in Memphis. They marched for economic rights, for human rights. As Rev. James Lawson explains, “When you treat workers as if they are not men, that is racist point of view.” The video shows workers demonstrating with signs that read, “I am a man.” This was the 1960’s version of #BlackLivesMatter. They were treated as if their lives did not matter. Police attack the demonstrators as they did in the Ferguson demonstrations. Whether it was sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968 or today, we need to remember that the demonstrations need to continue to honor MLK’s legacy.