BIPOC Selections in honor of MLK Day and a call to action in #reclaimMLK

As we come back to campus, a few days after celebrating (Martin Luther King Jr, January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), I would like to honor his legacy this week with featuring a selection of titles from our collection that focus on the importance of his life and work. As an African-American woman, Dr. King and his many colleagues hold a profound significance for me. It is because of the sacrifices that they made that I was able to achieve the many milestones in my life. Although there is still much work to be done, those foundations that Dr. King, and the many great men and women who walk that perilous path with him, are why we are still able to fight the good fight against inequity, exclusion, and racism today.

Chicago, IL Freedom Festival
Image 1: Chicago, IL Freedom Festival, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King Jr., Al Raby, Mahalia Jackson 1966. Photographer B. Fitch. Stanford University Libraries – Special Collections. https://exhibits.stanford.edu/fitch/catalog/rb079md9641

The selections I’m recommending vary. My first picks Strength to Love, The Measure of a Man, and Where Do We Go From Here Chaos or Community? are publications of Dr. King’s speeches or sermons. An additional recommendation, Michael Eric Dyson’s, April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr’s Death and How it Changed America” includes a critical examination of Dr. King’s legacy on American culture. In Church in Color: Youth Ministry, Race, and the Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Montague R. Williams utilizes his understanding of Dr. King’s theological aesthetics to provide a framework for incorporating matters of race, racism, and racial identity to its fundamental teachings in the Church.

Reflecting on Dr. King’s legacy to the civil rights movement in Chicago, I further recommend The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North on ProQuest Ebook Central and “Two Societies (1965-1968)” Season 2, Episode 2 from American Experience: Eyes on the Prize, an iconic docuseries available in Alexander Street’s Academic Video Online database.

Lastly, I think it important to include some actual artifacts such as “The Negro Protest James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King talk with Kenneth B. Clark” from Alexander Street’s Black Thought and Culture collection. A transcript of three interviews conducted by Kenneth B. Clark with these legendary men; this primary resource serves to transport us back to those actual moments through tangible cultural heritage.

In conclusion, I want to share a request of those who do not come from the African and Black Diaspora. As we continue to #reclaimMLK in the Black community, we ask that you honor Dr. King’s legacy not just on this appointed national holiday but every day. The King Center outlines the “Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change: information gathering, education, personal commitment, negotiation, direct action, and reconciliation. These steps are based on Dr. King’s nonviolent campaigns and teachings that emphasize love in action.” My hope is that I can call on you now to put some of these steps into practice.

This includes stopping and calling out the practice of quoting Dr. King as a tool of oppression. Too often, Dr. King’s words are abused and used out of context to silence Black peoples voices against injustice. By admonishing Black activist movements with statements about what Dr. King wouldn’t do or stand for; the conversation and focus is intentionally shifted the conversation away from the problem at hand—racial injustice. It furthers an insidious practice of turning the victim into a perpetrator. The criminalization of the Black community is a stigma we as a people have been fighting against since our ancestors were forcibly brought to these lands as the enslaved.

I hope you enjoy browsing or reading the forementioned recommended selections on Dr. King and I look forward to continuing this journey of reconciliation together.

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