Every year on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the mainstream media is quick to whitewash his radical legacy of organizing mass civil disobedience. Dr. King’s radical vision of challenging the intersecting forces of racism, capitalism, and militarism has been repackaged into palatable sound bites. Like many other Black freedom fighters, Dr. King is not afforded the same humanity as other heroes in history: to be a dynamic and complex movement leader.
This year, organizing groups on the frontlines of the struggle for justice, such as the Movement for Black Lives, have called for a week of direct actions aimed at reclaiming Dr. King’s radical legacy and resisting what is to come after inauguration day. With a new regime set to take power, it is vital that we ground ourselves in the political legacies of past movement leaders. We must prepare to resist Trump’s agenda of stripping away the basic rights and protections from our most marginalized communities while increasing profits for the few. In Dr. King’s 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” he states, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
While the Bay Area is viewed as one of the most progressive regions in the nation, we are still facing increasing race and class inequality through regional resegregation, and we must take heed of Dr. King’s doctrine of valuing people over profits. If the new administration is emboldened to advance direct attacks on our communities, we must also be emboldened to build power and fight back across policy and organizing sectors especially in our local and regional contexts. You can begin by joining one of the many local actions reclaiming the radical legacy of Dr. King in the Bay Area.

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