Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter…”

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Today, women, men and children across the country’s 50 states are marching to celebrate the life, the promise, and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

As we begin this new year, it feels with each day that passes that we as a country are approaching a dangerous crossroads.  Down one road, a deeply uncertain future awaits us, a future in which longstanding norms and principles are lost, and rights and progress are threatened.  Nothing better captures that looming possibility than the astoundingly obtuse and shamefully crass disparagement of one of this country’s few true, living heroes, Congressman John Lewis, on the eve of the very day upon which the country celebrates Dr. King’s legacy.  

Down another road lies a different future, one in which those of us who have fought for those rights, and have lived by those longstanding principles, defend our legacy of ever-growing social justice.  As we stand just steps away from this crossroads, we turn once again to Dr. King himself for guidance:  “I am disappointed with America.  And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love.”

Indeed, it is the very elements of the country’s history that we love — and moreover, our collective vision for the future, predicated on love — that are at the center of today’s celebrations across the U.S., and that will ultimately drive today’s human rights movements down that second road.  Today, and in the years ahead, our task is to fight shoulder to shoulder, in a broad and inclusive movement to protect our basic human rights — whether it be from major fast food chains like Wendy’s, turning its back on the Presidential Medal-winning Fair Food Program in order to buy produce where fundamental human rights are under constant attack, or from those in the political arena who would threaten to roll back decades of progress in protecting the basic civil, social, and economic rights of millions of people.

Honoring this vision of 2017’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, longtime CIW supporter and FGCU professor Anne Hartley wrote a letter to the editor in the Naples Daily News this past Friday to commemorate not only Dr. King, but also the upcoming Women’s March in Washington, DC:

Letters to the editor: Friday, Jan. 13, 2017

Marching to carry on dream

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation making the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. How will you commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King?

My daughter and I will travel to Washington to march. The women’s movement took shape before the turn of the century. Women did not secure the right to vote until 1920, after the 1913 and 1917 women’s suffrage parades in Washington.

Marching is a great American tradition. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom did not end the civil rights movement, but it offered indisputable evidence that the Kennedy administration’s proposed comprehensive civil rights legislation was justified, actually overdue.

People of color were denied the right to vote until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Today’s civil rights movement embraces many causes: restoration of the Voting Rights Act, equal pay for equal work, freedom to make decisions for our families, access to affordable child care and health care, criminal justice reform, safe communities, high-quality education for everyone, good stewardship of Earth’s resources, fair and just treatment of all members of society, and peace.

In Collier County, our farmworker neighbors participate fully in the democratic process. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers marches to raise awareness about the Fair Food Program. In collaboration with Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Aramark and other industry leaders, this program protects farmworkers from abuse.

Reagan said about Dr. King, “What manner of man was this? May we make ourselves worthy to carry on his dream and create the love community.”

I march to honor all those — past, present and future — who work to carry on his dream.

Anne Hartley, Naples

We are proud to say that dozens of farmworkers, their families, and allies from Immokalee will be marching with Anne at the massive Women’s March in Washington, DC, this weekend, joining hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in a show of force that affirms a world rooted in the fundamental belief that all people are created equal (stay tuned for a report from marchers next week!).

To close, we want to share one more sobering and salient reminder from Dr. King, one for all of us to carry with us in the years ahead:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

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