In recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which we celebrated at the beginning of this week, we are featuring Dr. King in our first installment on modern peacemakers!
Many of you likely know about Dr. King and are already aware of what he stood for, but today I am asking you to reflect on this great man and how he has led the charge for peace. Behind his quotes about peace and darkness (the ones that make for lovely refrigerator magnets and bumper stickers), how did this icon live the messages he preached? Where do we see a need for peace in our own lives?
Dr. King strongly believed that education could combat intolerance and hatred and spent many years studying at schools such as Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, and Boston University. During the final phase of his doctoral studies, Dr. King became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Little was he aware, at the time, that he would soon be leading from stages much larger than a pulpit.
After taking on the role of pastor, Dr. King and his congregation decided to become more active in civil rights initiatives. He quickly became a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and in December 1955, led a bus boycott that lasted 382 days: that same boycott would also be the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration in contemporary United States history. Because of this nonviolent protest, the Supreme Court ultimately declared that laws requiring segregation on buses were unconstitutional. This victory did not come without turmoil, however - not only was Dr. King arrested, but was often threatened and persecuted while pursuing justice.
In 1957, he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and spent the following eleven years speaking throughout the country and publishing books and articles to educate the nation on the civil rights movement. Dr. King was responsible for leading a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, organizing the registration of Negro voters in Alabama, and coordinated the march on Washington D.C., where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” address. Martin Luther King, Jr. was thirty-five when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making him the youngest man to receive this honor. Rather than collect the staggering $54,123 in prize money for himself, he chose to instead use those funds to progress the civil rights movement.
Decades have passed since his assassination on April 4, 1968, and Dr. King continues to inspire peacemakers throughout the world. His dream endures in everyone actively fighting oppression and those who choose to celebrate the light in this world.
Because we wish to help you Make Peace and Find Peace, please share this story with your loved ones or better yet, with someone who you are struggling to realize peace with! Here are some questions for you to ask yourselves and discuss with others:
1) Where am I (we) struggling to find peace in my life? What stands between me and that peace I wish to experience?
2) How can I bring peace to others, even while I may be struggling to find it?
Peace to you.
-Kelsey Rode, Saint Rita Shrine Administrator