50 years later: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to affect our lives

King was a primary leader of peaceful protests throughout the South and instrumental in the passage of civil and voting rights legislation for black Americans.
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“Here comes that dreamer. Come now, let’s kill him…” Genesis 37:19-20a.

Perhaps that is what the assassin was thinking when he pulled the trigger on April 4, 1968. The unjust have sought to kill the righteous from biblical times to the present. It was no different for a man who walked among this generation fighting the evils of pride and prejudice, racism and inequality.

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon, November 1957.

There is no way to touch on all that Dr. King did. Today, I simply wish to acknowledge that it has been 50 years since his untimely death.

I consider what has changed…and ponder the reasons for protests to continue.

Today, when I teach art to children and adults, I think about how interacting with them helps them to realize that we all have something special to offer the world. And that is part of realizing the dream.


“I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on.” “He promised to never leave me.” MLK, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. born on January 15, 1929, was a pastor, as his father before him, Michael King, Sr. who changed their names to Martin Luther King. Dr. King entered college at the age of 15, having skipped two grades in high school.

He received a Ph.D. in systematic theology in 1955. His sermons, speeches and letters are based in scripture with applications for America. “MLK: Paul’s Letter to American Christians” is just as applicable today as it was 50 years ago.

“I am impelled to write you concerning the responsibilities laid upon you to live as Christians in the midst of an unChristian world. That is what I had to do. That is what every Christian has to do. But, I understand that there are many Christians in America who give their ultimate allegiance to man-made systems and customs. They are afraid to be different.”

As King has stated, “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Ouch! 50 years later, that resonates locally and nationally—although there are many reasons for this and many ways to address it.

It is an observation, although external racial barriers have been eliminated, barriers of the heart may remain. Dr. King brought a “love your enemy” message outside of the church walls, yet admonished people of this generation:

“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

Civil rights

Dr. King began publicly speaking out against racial injustice at the age of 15.

In 1953, Dr. King married Coretta Scott and they started a family. He was out on the front lines as an activist leading bus boycotts and prayer pilgrimages.

Dr. King endured personal vicious attacks both physical and psychological, as well as attacks on his home, yet he persevered. And his family persevered.

In 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. met with presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

During the ’60s, famous entertainers, black and white, performed tribute concerts and donated thousands of dollars to the cause.

In 1963, Dr. King and others were jailed for demonstrating without a permit. On April 19, 1963, Dr. King writes “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” a detailed and extensive defense of civil disobedience and nonviolence. In poignant statements and images of injustice, Dr. King’s wisdom flows through his pen reaching around the world.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”“The time is always ripe to do what is right.”

In 1964, Dr. King met with the Pope at the Vatican. In December of the same year, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway at the age of 35—the youngest person to ever win.

Dr. King continued to lead marches through 1965-68, including the Selma to Montgomery March. In 1965, President Johnson signed, “The Voting Rights Act,” prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

On April 3, 1968, Dr. King delivered his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.

“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.”

The next day, April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated.

On April 4, 2018—50 years later there are serious challenges yet to face and defeat.

Continued challenges

While writing his final speech, did Dr. King see that his efforts would pave the way for the first black President of the United States? Maybe he saw his dear friend, John Lewis (who was brutally attacked by police during the Selma march) today as a Congressman.

The dream would become a reality. A reality for me even though I was a child and did not realize what was happening when Dr. King was killed.

Systemic racism is not as blatant as in the past, yet insidiously rears its ugly head taking shape in different ways.

Today, we can walk into restaurants and the voting booth with equal opportunity. Today, we can physically worship together but there still seems to be a disconnect when people are unwilling to consider another perspective.

Dr. King was willing to take on enormous challenges. Rooted in faith he could see a glimpse of the America that would come 50 years later.

Dr. King thought of his own children and the America he dreamed of for all God’s children.

“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.”

Today, I am reflecting on Dr. King’s character. Today, I am thinking of the children—the next generation. Am I standing up for them in the midst of injustice? How can I help them reach the mountaintop?

In his final hours, Dr. King was not defeated.

Dr. King was happy.

“And, I am happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Gloria Locke is a Santa Clarita resident.

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