Jan 19, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – On Monday, America observed a federal holiday to honour civil rights icon, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Come April 4th, it will be 55 years since this valiant fighter for his people-the underdog, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The world lost a warrior, a wise man, and a figure of worldly proportions.
Dr. King stands as the benchmark for one dedicating his life, his work, to a struggle and a cause that looked impossible. In some ways or the other, he did overcome, his dream partially progressing, his people lifted up through doors opened that were previously slammed in their faces. His is the stuff of inspiration, of rare heroism, of what could be achieved, despite the legions of human obstacles that blocked his path, that were determined to bring him down.
Dr. King fought the odds, and eked out seminal victories. The Civil Rights Act that came into being in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act stand as two landmark achievements credited to his tireless efforts. Both have come under severe and continuing challenges, and whittling down, through the efforts of adversaries determined to hold onto a long-standing way of life of discrimination and inequality. The Civil Rights Act has a special meaning for thousands of Guyanese, who were able to enter the United States, and build a new life. Though not spoken of much, this is one of the enduring legacies of King, which impacted not just African Americans, but hopeful people globally. As we celebrate his life and legacy, Guyanese should think of what came about through his energies and fearlessness, and the differences that were made in Guyana, and America.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Dr. King to study the forces arrayed against him, throw up his hands, and retreat in defeat. Chances are that he would done well for himself: an obstacle neutralized, the status quo remaining in its untouched and barbaric state. But that was not how Martin Luther King was made, how he saw the world, how came to recognize his role, what must determine his actions, his fight for better.
For sure, he was human, and one with the normal weaknesses of men, but still he laboured forward. For sure, his enemies made it their duty to erect every blockade, every trap and pitfall, in his path, if not to deter him, then to destroy him. Still, he moved forward unflinchingly and courageously, knowing that somewhere in his future, there will be an April 4th, and his fatal fall in Tennessee. Prophets and revolutionaries can be killed, and that would continue as long as men confront each other, and a fateful collision course is all but inevitable. Before King, there was Gandhi; and after him, a man who languished in jail for decades rose to the pinnacle of the world. In the shadow and footsteps of Gandhi and King, there came Mandela in South Africa.
In Guyana, in this time of oil and grand developments, there is this struggling, this clawing for recognition, inclusion, and oneness, a genuinely level playing field. It is an elusive and uphill vision and objective that have been undermined by what is said to be sincere and authentic, but are nowhere close to either state. There is fear, skillful picking apart and weakening, with few presences and fewer voices stepping forward to speak for those deceived and misled, those hurting but still hopeful. Men mention Martin Luther King in awed breath, but then they shrink, or they sell, they lose sight of the suffering and the challenges that turn the world of the powerless upside down.
In America, some the handiwork of Dr. King is reversed through the court system. Hard-earned gains achieved at great sacrifice, that made equality of opportunity law and practice, that protected those at the margins, fall under the gavel of US Supreme Court Justices. Still, the storied battles started and refined by Dr. King continue. It is the indomitable will of man that resists injustice, that never bows down before bigotry, no matter the degree of subtlety. Thanks to Martin Luther King inspiration flourishes. Guyana should find its own King when the time is right.
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