Thursday, January 23, 2014

Remembering King's legacy

Students and residents of Iowa City marched to honor Dr. Martin Luther King.

IOWA CITY — The struggle for racial equality in the United States has been an ongoing endeavor for this country’s entire history. One of the casualties of that conflict and America’s most famous humanitarian, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was honored nationwide on Monday.

In honor of Dr. King, students and area residents of Iowa City participated in a “Unity March” around the Iowa Old Capitol Building, followed by a program dedicated to remembering King and his legacy.

“This is a silent march, we’re not protesting anything,” Roy Salcedo, one of the organizers said. “I know there are so many things that we can be protesting in this day and age, but this is an opportunity to march together as one community.”

As Salcedo hinted, the Unity March could have demonstrated on a number of racial issues.

The Pew Research Center reported in August of 2013 that 45 percent of Americans say the United States has made “a lot” of progress on racial equality over the past 50 years, with 49 percent of respondents saying that “a lot” still needs to be done to achieve that goal. 

Since at least 1954, the unemployment rate for black Americans has consistently been double that of white Americans, Pew reported.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 2010, whites were expected to live four years longer than blacks on average, slightly less than the seven year gap that existed in 1960.

Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that blacks were five times as likely to be incarcerated as whites in 1960, but in 2010, were six times as likely to be incarcerated as whites.
The Unity March proceeds along the east side of the University of Iowa Pentacrest.          (Jon Overton/Iowa Peace Network)
Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said that people like Dr. King are a big part of why he was able to climb the social ladder. Loebsack grew up in a poor family and he credits his success to government programs, like the ones the famous civil rights leader stood up for, and ordinary people who lent him a helping hand.

“There were people who were looking out for me,” he said. “There were programs fought for by the Martin Luther King Juniors of this world, of this country, and that’s the reason that I’m here today.”

Loebsack also highlighted often ignored parts of Dr. King’s convictions, including vocal opposition to the Vietnam War and support for the working class. When the civil rights leader was shot and killed in Memphis, Tenn., he had been there to support a strike by sanitation workers.

Melissa Abram-Jackson, a University of Northern Iowa graduate who is pursuing a PhD in Leadership Studies at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio broadly discussed Dr. King’s legacy.

“If we don’t receive, take ownership of, or find our place in the legacy, then today really becomes nothing more than a day off,” she said.

Dr. King’s philosophy, Abram-Jackson said, was about finding your passion and actively working to help others.

“A true leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus,” she said. “Sometimes you have to stand alone and push and other folks will come.” 

Jon Overton is the Media Editor for Iowa Peace Network and an undergraduate at the University of Iowa studying Ethics & Public Policy and Sociology. He also writes for The Daily Iowan.

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