Seeking Work and Dignity King’s “Second Phase”

01/17/2011 § Leave a comment

[dr. king leading a march from roxbury to the state house]

i wrote this piece 3 years ago to commemorate 40 years since king’s assassination in PeaceWork Magazine:

The US would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men (sic) and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. — Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

In his prophetic last volume, Where Do We Go From Here? Dr. King points towards the abolition of poverty as the critical “second phase” in the struggle for justice. Even after the Civil Rights Movement won so called “equality” in 1964, it became clear that the right to sit next to whites at a lunch counter was useless without the funds for a meal. In his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam,” King maintained that an economy dominated by military spending existed at the expense of underfunding the poor.

In 2003, Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and a cadre of other seasoned community organizers known as the District 7 Roundtable launched the Fund the Dream Campaign. Rooted in King’s call to challenge the ë”evil triplets of…racism, materialism, and militarism,” Fund the Dream resurrected King’s framework to build economic peace by organizing the under- and unemployed.

At the time of his assassination, King was in Memphis, standing with unionizing sanitation workers and building towards a national Poor People’s Campaign for guaranteed jobs or income. Today, facing economic recession, 50 percent unemployment among young African American men and growing poverty amongst single mothers, organizing against joblessness in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods has become a matter of survival.

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