In reflecting on MLK Day 2021, I am thinking of other history makers who created a resonance for teaching lessons and encouraging us to move forward.
History is continuously being made, debated and repeating itself. Thankfully, one thing America does well is creating new leaders of every generation who help us reimagine an equitable society. To honor Dr. King and keep his dream alive on this MLK Day, there are a few people I want to highlight who are following in his legacy as change agents.
All the Black people on social media who create funny memes even during the most depressive news events. Their gifs, graphical narrations, and other digital stories are expressed with quick wit, precise audience representation and relatable experiences that helps us laugh while being (somewhat) informed. These creators provide a platform for collective grief and healing. While it is hard to identify this collective by name, it is imperative to acknowledge this necessary work of gathering. It is how the Civil Rights movement prevailed, and it has sustained us through 2020’s wrath of traumas.
Rep. Cori Bush from Missouri is the first Black woman elected to the House of U.S. Representatives from her state. In addition to carrying the weight of being a Black woman American first, Rep. Bush ascended to the predominantly white, millionaire halls of Congress as a single mother, nurse and local grassroots organizer. She is a reminder that local citizens are the soul of this nation, and are qualified to have decision-making power. Rep. Bush’s commentary on her social media, news outlets and the Capitol floor expresses a non-conventional voice that is aligned with the new school members of Congress that include sophomore Representatives Ayanna Pressely, Lucy McBath and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Together they are changing the trajectory of this country’s leadership. Like Dr. King, Rep. Bush champions this movement as a true homegrown leader and public servant. Her story is one that affirms that any American can be a politician or even, a member of the United States Congress.
Tamika Mallory of New York, organizes on behalf of people lost by violence and co-chaired the 2017 Women’s March. In spaces that are harmful for Black people to protest the injustices against them, Mallory’s coaching and leadership educates us on the true matter at hand, like Dr. King. She dedicated much of Summer 2020 to keeping Breonna Taylor’s name in the news and in front of Kentucky officials by organizing demonstrations of 20,000 people in Louisville, KY in the middle of the Covid-19 global health crisis. After Kentucky state Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s hurtful decisions to release Taylor’s murderers of liability, Mallory offered words of guidance to the public. She held Cameron accountable with her own power of tongue and provided comfort to the people, reminiscent of a big sister who would not let anyone hurt you.
It is no secret her impact on this generation. In the words of the queen herself, “Need another march, lemme call Tamika,” – Beyonce (“Black Parade”).
Bernice King, Dr. King’s daughter, uses her platform to offer profound words that ground and move us to expand and reform our mindsets. As CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, she carries her father’s temperament. On Twitter, she corrects any one misappropriating their work by saying they are acting in Dr. King’s legacy. Her demeanor as an elder in justice movements is approachable and sets a standard that transcends generations. King displays that at any level of your contributions you can still have loyalty to and innovative approaches to rights movements.
The people listed above are only a few of Dr. King’s Dream keepers. In each of us is the power to contribute to this Dream that we may all enjoy for generations to come. This MLK Day holiday, as we acknowledge, celebrate and have gratitude for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., think about your own contributions to this Dream. How are you sharing your story and those of people in our community who live out Dr. King’s dreams and push us to keep it alive?
Stories matter when history is being recorded. Please share yours.
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