Let us rededicate ourselves to Martin Luther King Jr.’s last fight against poverty

BRATTLEBORO — Every third Monday in January, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. - a day largely marked by recommitments to the continued struggle for racial and economic justice within the United States.

In 2017, we saw the ongoing repression of racialized groups and the normalization of violence and brutality. The consequences of racism arise in so many different sectors of society, and they disproportionately impact people of color.

MLK's fight for racial equality also entailed his commitment to work toward ending poverty that had (and has) devastating consequences on communities of color.

Poverty is systematically compounded by racism, and Dr. King understood that resistance was necessarily based in both a class and race analysis. He linked the conditions of poor black people not only to racism but also to the economic exploitation that is endemic to capitalism.

Toward the end of his life (in December of 1967), MLK called on his fellow Civil Rights leaders to organize a Poor People's Campaign to protest the plight of poverty.

It was a call to resist unjust economic conditions and to recognize human needs essential for building fulfilling and sustainable lives free from injustice. It was a movement that demanded better jobs, living conditions, health care, and education.

Through his efforts in organizing the Poor People's Campaign, MLK articulated economic justice as the unifying force for all people, regardless of race. He asserted that the Poor People's Campaign would be successful only if impoverished people united despite their identity, and he asserted that this action would be necessary in a common struggle for a better world.

He asked questions that we still ask today - questions like, “Why are so many poor in a country that holds so much wealth?”

King never lived to see the six-week protest camp, called Resurrection City, set up on the Washington Mall. Reverend Dr. Ralph Abernathy, a close friend of MLK who took over the leadership of the campaign after King's assassination, explained that the intention of the Poor People's Campaign was to “dramatize the plight of America's poor of all races and make clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.”

This year will mark the 50th anniversary and revival of this movement. Let us act and organize for a better life for us all and, as MLK said, “rededicate” ourselves, find strength in our common struggle, do more for one another, and do it better.

Join Brattleboro Solidarity with the Brooks Memorial Library for the Speak Out for Justice to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King,. The free event will take place at the library in downtown Brattleboro from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13.

This is the third annual MLK Speak Out organized by Brattleboro Solidarity and the second year hosted with our friends at the library. People are invited to say a few words, speak out against the injustice they see in the world around them, read a poem, share a story, or sing a song. After the event, bread and soup will be served in the community room at the library.

Brattleboro Solidarity is a group in southern Vermont, acting with the people of the world who are resisting injustices. Our organizing is rooted in deepening understanding and building the world we wish to see. For more information, write to us at [email protected].

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