Special to The Gardner News
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality,” Martin Luther King, Jr., declared. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
There are several local events honoring King.
Area residents are invited to join Olathe’s Human Relations Commission (OHRC) to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Jan. 19. The annual Martin Luther King (MLK) Celebration will occur from 3 to 5 p.m. at Mid-America Nazarene University’s Bell Cultural Arts Center (2030 E College Way).
In Gardner, an exhibit honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., will be on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 17 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 20 at the city hall council chambers, 120 E. Main Street.
Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be Jan. 20, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Indian Creek Library. Activities will include programming for all ages, family-friendly service projects, crafts, documentary screenings, and more.
MORE, the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, will celebrate Jan. 20 “Socializing for Social Justice.” Strouds, Overland Park, and Smitty’s, KCMO, will donate funds to MORE for those diners who mention MORE. Additional information is available at: www.MORE2.org.
King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and his brilliant leadership proved essential to Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. The third Monday in January was declared Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.
“In the end, we will remember not the words or our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” he said. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
The Baptist minister born in Atlanta, Ga., took a peaceful approach, free of hatred yet marked by absolute determination for justice. In Greensboro, N.C., African Americans started sit-in campaigns to end racial segregation at whites-only lunch counters. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee began, and King called it “an electrifying movement of Negro students that shattered the placid surface of campuses and communities across the South.”
Freedom Riders rode through the Southern states, challenging discriminatory practices through nonviolence. Peaceful protests met with violent response. Blood flowed as people were beaten and jailed for the crime of seeking human equality. Between 1958 and 1967, King himself went to jail 30 times for standing up for civil rights.
Patty Ray, whose family has been in Gardner for five generations, lived briefly in Biloxi, Mississippi, as a military wife in 1960, and she distinctly remembers the different drinking fountains marked “White” and “Colored,” and the racism that scarred the division of Biloxi’s beaches. The city’s 26-mile shoreline was segregated, and a group of people led wade-in protests. The protesters received beatings and brutality.
Into racist rose the soaring wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose “I Have a Dream” speech has been declared the greatest of the century. He delivered it during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, standing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” King proclaimed.
He had led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, and he became the first leader of the Southern Christian Leadership conference in 1957. Through nonviolence and civil disobedience, King spent his entire life fighting peacefully for human rights.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” King said in his final speech, April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination. “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”
Although the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act passed, many discrepancies remain. According to FBI statistics, 47 percent of hate crimes are motivated by racism. Unarmed black men are seven times more likely to die by police violence than white men.
Yet King foresaw a time when peace would prevail. He looked across the sands of time and saw the deep goodness and possibility of love in all people: “And so I’m happy, tonight,” he said in his final speech. “I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”