Standing Up For Voting Rights to Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday
Monday, January 17th, is the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 93rd birthday. It is a day to honor Dr. King as an instrumental leader of the civil rights movement, as well as an individual who forged valuable alliances and worked strategically with others for the sake of the movement. Given Dr. King’s dedication to securing voting rights for Black Americans, his family’s call to advocate for voters’ rights is a fitting way to commemorate his birthday.
The King Center's theme for the 2022 King holiday is, “it starts with me.” His daughter, Dr. Bernice King spoke recently about the importance of focusing on voting rights, which is the cornerstone of United States democracy. She explains that if “voting rights are still hanging in the balance by the King holiday, we must collectively use our various commemorations and our platforms on that particular day to do what Dr. King would do.” We can honor Dr. King’s legacy by putting pressure on our lawmakers to pass voting rights legislation. Bernice King further explains that rather than a day off, we can all make it “a day on to educate, to advocate, and to activate.” Martin Luther King III, Dr. King’s eldest son is also involved with voting rights advocacy and will be participating in a virtual event on January 14th.
Dr. King’s public call for voting rights began as far back as his 1957 speech, Give Us the Ballot. Nearly a decade later, the march from Selma to Montgomery was the culmination of three marches to fight for the right to vote. The very first march, historically known as “Bloody Sunday,” occurred on March 7, 1965. Over 600 marchers, including John Lewis and Hosea Williams, were brutally attacked by state troopers when they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. Two days later on March 9, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. attempted another march but turned marchers around after being confronted by state troopers at the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Finally, on March 21, 1965, thousands of marchers under the protection of the federalized National Guard, marched from Selma to the capitol steps in Montgomery to advocate for voting rights legislation that was fair, impartial, and without regard to a person’s race, gender or ethnicity. In 2022, we are still fighting for a bill that will ensure the right to vote unencumbered by racism. We can use this day to continue the fight for voting rights by demanding that the Senate pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
In furtherance of Bernice King’s call to use the King holiday as “a day on to educate, to advocate, and to activate,” please check out some local events. The Sharon Interfaith Clergy Association will commemorate the holiday with a reading of Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail. You can register for the event and read the text of the letter here.
Action Together Walpole is having a candlelight walk on January 17 at 6:30 pm that will start at the Walpole Common(corner of Common and Main Streets) and proceed down Main Street to East Street, walk through the Spring Brook Park, and return to the Walpole Common via School Street. It will cross the Spring Brook Park pedestrian bridge as a symbolic remembrance of the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for voting rights for Black Americans.
In addition, there is a local day of service opportunity in Brockton and various opportunities to learn about and reflect on the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. from the following local organizations and towns: