Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Joshua Cooper –

The commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s birthday offers an annual opportunity to reflect on the human rights movement King was mobilizing across the nation and the world.

We must stand up together against extreme economic injustice and poverty including pollution of our planet in pursuit of blind profit at the expense of people’s well-being and the natural environment of our only world.


This is the first year, there is a statue of King on the national mall nestled between Jefferson’s vision of rights in the Declaration of Independence and Roosevelt’s idea of rights in his Four Freedoms. No longer do we stand in King’s footsteps where he delivered his iconic I Have a Dream but can read more of his writings at King’s monument expressing his evolution between civil rights in his country and human rights for all humanity.

At the monument, King challenges all America to stand up for rights when it matters most. One quote notes, “…measure of a man is not where he stands at moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  We have just emerged from some of the most important challenges in the face of the multiple crisis – food, financial, climate and culture of perpetual conflict.

We must stand up together against extreme economic injustice and poverty including pollution of our planet in pursuit of blind profit at the expense of people’s well-being and the natural environment of our only world.  Philosopher Cornel West believed King would be rolling in his grave even with an African American President based on the policies and priorities of the nation. West called for “…a revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living…”

West is echoing King’s perspective on human rights at the Riverside Church breaking his silence against violence in Vietnam and at home with our war priorities.  King connected all the points for a world of peace, “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.” This is important with the recent wars America waged with false pretenses and outright lies resulting in senseless death and skyrocketing dollar profit for corporations.  Wars that ended because they bankrupted the economy not burned our emotions.  King linked the decisions in our democracy and called on citizens to ensure our budget reflects our beliefs calling for, “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”  If only we listened and learned from King when he said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King was genuinely connecting the ideas and issues for an international agenda rooted in inner peace focusing on love and liberation of the human spirit for social justice.

We must commit MLK Jr. birthday to not be a day off from work but a day on to build the beloved community in our country and global civil society. It is also an important time for reflection based on reading of King and other peacemakers.

The writings and important work by Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi, A.J. Muste,  James M. Lawson Jr. and Bayard Rustin tutored King to the essentials of systematic nonviolent struggle. We should all lean and then lead like Martin Luther King Jr on campaigns essential to our communities today. Many of the issues King addressed decades ago are even more dire today.

We can teach the theories and techniques in trainings that would explain the essence of this emancipatory exercises for the citizens of the world.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. march in Hawaii allows peacemakers in paradise to reconnect and recommit to improving Hawaii and our world. Beyond reading prophets of peace and rigorous reform projects, the day must serve as a catalyst for the social change.

Love must be core principle promoting peace. That is what I reflected on while marching this year and meeting with fellow peacemakers to create a series of monthly actions to engage us in Hawaii throughout 2012.  King understood spirit of love and its source to power peace, “When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response, I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I’m speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.  Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”

How well we implement the ideas into initiatives in our islands and beyond into the international arena will measure how much love is generated and governs our philosophy and policies on our planet.

We must love one another and comprehend interdependence as much as independence as King said, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I out to be.”

This common philosophy of Ubuntu in South Africa is rippling out from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as well connecting corporate apartheid touching the shores of many continents in the name of progress and development.

We must continue to mobilize to a new magnitude that shakes the conscience of the collective soul of earth.

Humanity is making the connection as we do in Hawaii commemorating the love of Queen Lili’uokalani for Kanaka Maoli and a principle of pono among her people. We must live the example of love in our everyday dealings to move beyond a dream into making human rights a reality for all.