The King legacy and a new state of activism

Gabrielle Jackson 

Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of the great Martin Luther King Jr., gave a thought provoking speech at Niagara University, instilling the principle ‘King’ legacy, wisdom, and grace.  This is not a name that is being carried with the weight of her father, her lifetime achievements has established her as a great in her own right. In a country seemingly divided, Dr. King is urging people to come together as one. The audience was enamored by the affirmation that “we can’t expect all solutions to rest with one person, because the responsibility is with all of us.” However, in a generation that seeks approval through an alley of likes and favorites, who follows a personality rather than a person, activism has been redesigned as conformity.

Dr. Bernice King Speaking at Castellani Museum

While some would question conformity as an issue of the past, it is not uncommon to see the abundance of “followers,” and a lack of leaders in today’s social activism. Users of social media platforms coming together to support a cause have dwindled into hashtags and trends deemed unimportant when the cause later goes undiscussed. Where opinions went unchecked behind closed doors, they are now visible to over 500 million active users. Dr. King charged us to question our beliefs by daring us to create new relationships and to avert from generalizations. How does a society expect to understand each other, if we never look beyond a paragraph, let alone a sentence? Social media has trapped our thoughts into 140 character headlines drifting us away from facts and bringing us towards “alternative facts.”

Dr. Bernice King with Faith Harbin

Trump’s executive order, banning immigrants from mostly Muslim countries has placed the United States in a difficult situation. The American dream is being limited to a chosen few, and whether the ban is unconstitutional or not, it will be decided by the judiciary courts in the coming months. Dr. King critiqued his efforts to push the agenda of “building walls,” stating that it is “not the time to build walls, but to build bridges.” An interesting fact, for a country made entirely of immigrants, with respect to those of Native American descent, walls were never an option. Like her father once said, “if they divide us, they conquer us,” and to establish a path to community, hard work and critical thinking is needed. In order to dispel hatred in the world, we must meet our “enemy” on an even playing field. Only then, will a true revolution occur. As if on cue, King emphasizes her advice that “we can’t get mad, we have to get smart.”

Audience waiting to hear Dr. King

There is no dignity in attacking people with a different mindset, but there is also no dignity in entertaining ignorance, and as the great Dr. Bernice King says, when all is said and done, we will “find dignity in our diversity.”

We have to think outside of the box. This begins with understanding others rather than trying to be understood.

The world can be an unforgiving place. For a generation that chooses to bring each other together through a viable outlet, there needs to be proper information gathering and leaders that aren’t willing to give in. Social activism has to have substance or it will become a catalyst for resistance. The world has seen what happens when questioning moral values does not translate into strategy. King mentions that “if you don’t have a strategy, you will tire from resistance.” This generation is ahead of the curve, stating issues that they may or may not have. It is our job to ensure that we learn from history, not to repeat it. Where does the problem then lie? In our inability to negotiate, to come to common ground. There has to be open-mindedness, because it is only then that we can find solutions.

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