Today many in the nation will take a moment to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during unity breakfasts, prayer meetings and television montages that will no doubt have people in Birmingham believing that the only thing people think of when they hear the name of their city is fire hoses and dogs. Commissioner Langford, a likely candidate for mayor in this fall’s election will speak at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church here in the city this afternoon. There will be wreath-laying ceremonies at the base of the above statue of the fallen civil rights leader later this morning with other political and social leaders taking part. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will be open to the public for free, leading to an influx of cars from across the country coming to see the exhibits and the history of this facility.
An early morning walk through the downtown area showed many treating it as they would any other Monday morning. There are considerably less cars downtown today as many have the day off. This afternoon several hundred people will culminate a weekend of service to the community throughout the greater metropolitan area. There are those that will push the issue of whether or not a city celebrates the holiday. The Birmingham News provides this list in today’s paper. The issue of taking the day off just to have the day off or spending the day working is one that will be raised for some time to come. How do you honor a man who led one of the most important fights in the history of civil rights in this country?
I say one of them because there is still progress to be made in race relations in this country on all levels. Homelessness and poverty still rear its ugly head at levels much greater than we need or want. Gay and lesbian rights are still a long way from being dealt with openly and candidly. So what do we do?
As mentioned last year, I’m still not sure why we choose to focus on these issues and challenges at only one time of year on such a national level. I’m hoping that some people choose to voice their thoughts today as that would be as great a tribute to Dr. King as it would be to roll up your sleeves and do something about it without feeling the need to resort to violent tactics.
The irony of the focus of many of the local activities here in Birmingham, Alabama is the significance of the person that Kelly Ingram Park is named for:
It’s named for the first American sailor killed in “the war to end all wars.” For both Ingram and those that sacrificed for my ability to write these words today, we must really ask ourselves what must we be willing to do to finally achieve victory over these issues.
Let’s hear ’em.