Yesterday, April 4th, was the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Every year there is a solemn gathering at the Kennedy-King Park in downtown Indianapolis to commemorate the speech that Bobby Kenndy gave there in 1968, announcing King’s death. This was in the days before cell phones, and that was the first time most in the crowd heard the news. The Indianapolis police pleaded with him not to go to that neighborhood, fearing they could not protect him from the crowd. Indianapolis was one of the few major cities in the country where riots did not occur that night.
That event in Indianapolis was supposed to have been a campaign stop for Kennedy’s Presidential bid. Kennedy received the news on the plane to Indianapolis. There was no time to prepare a speech. The video at the end of this is the extemporaneous speech Kennedy gave that night.
There is a remarkable sculpture at the Kennedy-King Park symbolizing the connections between Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy.
Martin Luther King has been an important part of my life. I was coming of age during his time, a Junior at Scattergood Friends School when he was killed. I had so much trouble trying to sort out what I should do about the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King was criticized by people in the civil rights movement when he began to speak out against the war, but that was a great help to me.
These days I’m working to replace capitalism by building mutual aid communities. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work was as much about economics and poverty as it was about racial equality.
“I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic,” Martin Luther King admitted to Coretta Scott, concluding that “capitalism has outlived its usefulness.”
Speaking at a staff retreat of the SCLC in 1966, King said that “something is wrong … with capitalism” and “there must be a better distribution of wealth” in the country. “Maybe,” he suggested, “America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
For King, the only solution to America’s crisis of poverty was the redistribution of wealth. In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King declared, “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”The Forgotten Socialist History of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Matthew Miles Goodrich, In These Times, January 16, 2023
“War Is An Enemy Of The Poor.”
Although seldom recognized, Martin Luther King Jr. was anti-war. His politics should be applied to demand an end to NATO and the war in Ukraine, say activists.
“We are here, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said co-executive director of The People’s Forum, Claudia De La Cruz, to a crowd of hundreds gathered in Times Square, in front of the US Army Recruiting Station, on January 14. “We are here to reclaim his legacy and say: no to war.”
The organizers and workers mobilized to demand an end to NATO and a peaceful resolution to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The rally and march was organized by the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, a US anti-war organization, and the People’s Forum. Activists raised slogans to demand a peaceful resolution of the war through negotiations rather than continued US weapons funding. Banners read “Money for our needs/Not the war machine” and “No to NATO/Yes to peace”.
With Congress passing a massive spending bill in December, containing over $44 billion in US aid to Ukraine, the United States is now set to spend over $100 billion total on the Russia–Ukraine War. Activists are demanding that these billions be used instead to fund public services, such as education, jobs and healthcare.
“We have to continue to fight for integration, collaboration, negotiations, because that’s been the only way of resolving conflict. War is a tool of our enemy,” said De La Cruz, in closing, to the crowd assembled inside The People’s Forum. “The only legit war is class war.”US Activists Honor the Anti-War Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr by Natalia Marques, People’s Dispatch, January 17, 2023
I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”Ronnie James
The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.
Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.
If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises.
Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy by Cornel West, The Guardian, April 4, 2018
YouTube video I created of speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr, and Bobby Kennedy using photos I took at the Kenned-King Park in Indianapolis.