The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a beloved figure in American culture, credited with having moved the country forward into civil rights and an end to segregation of the races. Looking back on it from today, we can’t help but be incredibly grateful for his guidance of the human spirit toward creating a just world and healing great wrongs of the past.
Today we continue to grow as we seek to bring an end to racial discrimination in our corporate cultures. Diversity, equity and inclusion are commitments of AMS Fulfillment, and we are rewarded every day with a diverse workforce.
As we look back at the life of Dr. King we know he not only had to experience being hated and mistreated; he gave his life in moving the culture to higher ground. And so on the holiday celebrating his birthday, January 15, we commemorate his life and his work.
Even the story of how his birthday became a holiday is fraught with struggle.
An article in ConstitutionCenter.org reveals that the holiday took 32 years to accomplish. Begun in 1968 it eventually became a federal holiday, and all 50 states had made it a state government holiday by 2000. First there were battles to gain the federal holiday, followed by battles within the States.
Representative John Conyers introduced the first motion in 1968, just four days after Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis. It took another 11 years to come up for a vote on the House of Representative’s floor in 1979. The bill fell five votes short of passing.
Musician Stevie Wonder helped in 1981 by releasing his song “Happy Birthday.” The King Center organized a march on Washington and Coretta Scott King, along with Stevie Wonder, presented a petition signed by 6 million people and the bill passed in 1983 by 53 votes. In the Senate, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina openly opposed it, calling Dr. King a Communist. After a hard fight the bill passed the Senate by 12 votes.
President Ronald Reagan signed the bill in November 1983. The first federal King holiday was celebrated in 1986.
It took longer for the 50 states to adopt the holiday. By 1986, 17 states had adopted it. Arizona and South Carolina held back the longest, and eventually gave way after entertainers and the NFL got involved.
South Carolina was one of the last states to approve a paid King holiday for state employees in 2000. Quoting from the article, “The state’s governor had tried to link the holiday to a commitment to allow the state house to fly the Confederate battle flag. Instead, he signed a bill that approved the King holiday along with a Confederate Memorial Day celebrated in May.”
As readers can see, progress does take time and dedicated effort.
This year’s theme from the King Center is: ‘It Starts with Me: Shifting Priorities to Create the Beloved Community.’ The following paragraphs are from the King Center’s message to the public, written by Dr. Bernice King:
“Now more than ever, it is critical that we increase our understanding of the Beloved Community and heighten our individual and collective efforts to make it a reality. Many consider the Beloved Community to be unachievable because of the misnomer that it is a Utopia. However, the Beloved Community is not a perfect place. It is a place where imperfections don’t spiral downward to become injustices, gross inhumanity, genocide and the perpetual devastation of what my father called the Triple Evils of Racism, Extreme Materialism, and Militarism.
“As my mother stated, “In the Beloved Community, caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence.” In her memoir, Coretta: My Life, My Love, My Legacy, she also wrote, “The Beloved Community is fueled by unconditional love, feels like family, and transcends race, religion, and class.” In addition to learning more about these quotes, we must learn more about what the Beloved Community encompasses, as well as grasp what is required for us to get there together.”
Read the full message at TheKingCenter.Org.