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In order to be an acceptable national hero, white America has had to sanitize Martin Luther King so that he was not perceived as a threat to anybody, simply as a religious leader filled with love and high principles. “The Radical King,” edited and introduced by Cornel West (Beacon Press 2015) reclaims what King really stood for and reminds us that the battle against white supremacy requires taking on a lot more than white racists.
Dr. King led a movement that issued a stirring call for justice. Lyndon Johnson used his remarkable skills to drive an unprecedented response to that call. The prophet and the president were both remarkable leaders. We may not look on their like again. But even so, one thing is still clear: When we build the demand for change, leaders will arise to offer the response.
Fifty years ago this week, President Lyndon Johnson, lamenting that too many Americans “live on the outskirts of hope,” declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” This will not be “a short or easy struggle,” he stated, “no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we will not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”
As we celebrate the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 83rd birthday, let us remember that he not only fought for racial justice and equality, but also called on us to end poverty and eliminate war. In his Nobel lecture, Dr. King said: “(T)he poor in America know that they live in the richest nation in the world, and that even though they are perishing on a lonely island of poverty they are surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity. ... (T)he infection and sickness of poverty (must) be exposed and healed – not only its symptoms but its basic causes. ... (W)e must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task.”
James "Hawk" Hawkins, fighter for justice and community activist, celebrated his 64th birthday on Aug. 3, 2010, and was called home by the Most High soon thereafter.