On August 28th, 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. led the March on Washington, an event designed to shed light on the political and social challenges that African Americans continued to face across the country. Over two hundred thousand Americans came together for a day led by people of all backgrounds. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream,” speech, which began with, “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” The day consisted of speeches, songs, and prayers, but the speech remembered throughout the years was King’s.
The events following this march included the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended public segregation and employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. Our country went far in the years following the march, but though this concept of racial inequality seems like an event of the past, it’s still a very evident issue. The roots of racism run deep, and it will take years until they are completely diminished…or maybe it will be a problem that is never totally gone. Look around at our country today: Congress is 9.6 percent (a record high) African American. We’ve had just one black president, and according to the article “Fourteen Examples of Racism in the Criminal Justice System” by Bill Quigley, black offenders receive sentences that are ten percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. King changed the course of our country for the better, but segregation today still exists and will continue to exist if we don’t carry on the relentless fight for equality. MLK Day is a day made to commemorate the legacy that King left. It’s a day to reflect on the wrongdoings of our past and look into what we can do to make a better future. On this day, we celebrate the words and ideas that he put out into our country and the bravery that he carried with him in every step he took. January 15th is a day to honor the life and contributions of the greatest leader for the mass fight for equality and racial justice.
Drawing by Rose Martines