American Cultural Center Holds Program to Celebrate Martin Luther King Day
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contribution to America and the world cannot be overstated. On January 21, Americans will once again celebrate the birthday of Dr. King, the apostle of nonviolent social change who was born January 15, 1929, with a national holiday dedicated to his memory.
For many Americans, this year's event -- the first King day since the September 11 terrorist attacks -- will have a poignant significance. King believed in radical action to bring about needed social change both in his own country and around the world. But he was a man of peace, not bloodshed -- believing nonviolent political struggle to be the most effective, as well as the most moral, route to the creation of a better world.
It is important to remember, especially at this time, that King's dream of justice was for people of all races -- and religions -- not only in the United States, but also throughout the globe. During his short life -- he was only 39 when assassinated in April 1968 -- he traveled the world urging the building of what he always referred to as "the beloved community."
In his book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community," published a year before his death, King talked about what he called the world house. "This is the great new problem of mankind," he wrote. "We have inherited a large house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together -- black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu -- a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace."
"All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors," King continued, predicting a time in which not only African Americans would be fully free, but peoples suffering discrimination everywhere. "Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever," he wrote. "The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself."
King's immediate concern was the situation confronting black people in the United States. But he made it clear in his speeches and books that racism was not just an American problem and that "a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
In "Where Do We Go From Here," King phrased it this way: "Among the moral imperatives of our time, we are challenged to work all over the world with unshakable determination to wipe out the last vestiges of racism." It "is no mere American phenomenon. Its vicious grasp knows no national boundaries."
The world house King foresaw would not only be free of racism, but also of poverty and hunger. To that end, he called for "a revolution of values" so that the "world-wide neighborhood" would be transformed into a "world-wide brotherhood."
In the richer nations, people of goodwill must challenge excessive materialism, "the poverty of spirit" that inhibits concern for those less fortunate at home and around the world, King said. "We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live," and that must change, he added.
As he frequently did, King stressed that time is always short. "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected, with a lost opportunity. The 'tide in the affairs of men' does not remain at the flood; it ebbs."
For those willing to join the fray -- working nonviolently for a better and more just world -- King said the benefits would far outweigh the hardships. "It really boils down to this," he said, "that all life is inter-related. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."