Cities should help host events for MLK

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 20, 2004

It can’t be about race, because it’s not. It can’t be about politics, because politics are too cynical and too superficial. And it sure can’t be about 100 rowdy children crowding a street with tubas and snare drums.

Yesterday, many people around West Alabama and the Black Belt celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. They prayed in church services — some even cried in those services; remembering the years of agony, blocking out the years of mental anguish.

Outside of church services, most communities in one of the most historic Civil Rights regions in the world sat idly by, thinking about anything but the 1960s. More importantly, city governments in this region sat on their hands for another year, content to let someone else remember the life of a man who changed their city, their state, their nation, their entire world.

Email newsletter signup

In many respects, Martin Luther King Jr. might be considered just another visionary. His name, forever etched in history as the leader of a civil cause who died in that cause, will not disappear anytime soon. Black citizens, who still remember the tighter hallways and back seats of transit buses, won’t let King’s legend die for generations and generations to come.

Race, like so many other vices in American life, has not disappeared — even after King died fighting for the content of character over the color of skin.

While we may have decades to go before all races don’t mind attending the same schools — especially here in West Alabama and the Black Belt — we sincerely believe that involvement by our local governments would go a long way toward helping shape future generations of citizens.

Sure, we don’t celebrate George Washington’s birthday with a parade, even though he was our first president and the man who led a revolution to freedom. And sure, we don’t celebrate the life of one of America’s greatest war generals in Robert E. Lee. But does that really matter in the grand scheme of things? Should the lack of one thing automatically translate into apathy toward something just as vital to the history of this region?

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday has come and gone in 2004. No city government actively participated in the national holiday, and to us, that is a sad reflection of the progress we’ve made in terms of race relations and civil rights for every man and woman.

All over West Alabama, we have cities with majority black councils and county commissions. We have black mayors, black legislators and black congressmen.

We urge the leaders — both black and white — to consider being involved, in some way or another, in celebrating the life of King. After all, can you name another person who has changed your city and region more than him in the past 100 years?