Shifting the King Day narrative

By Rev. Ron English, BBG – The West Virginian

The voice and vision speaks to the agony of the age in the power of NOW!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published by Black By God: The West Virginian in January 2023. Feb. 7, 2024, is the third annual Black Policy Day at the West Virginia Legislature.

One year before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was asked in an interview by a NBC reporter “what about your Dream?”His response was “my Dream has become a nightmare.”

Yet, his Dream speech remains the tagline for King Day celebrations because it’s convenient. However, two books, one by Dr. Vincent Harding, entitled “The Inconvenient King” and another by Dr. Cornel West “The Radical King” justify a shift in the focus of Dream King celebrations.

Most King Day Celebrations will focus attention on the “Dream King” because it is safe and convenient rather than provide a platform for the “Inconvenient King”.

King’s 1963 speech focused on racial inequity and economic injustice.

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Currently, however, it has been abused by causes contrary to his vision and legacy such as efforts of West Virginia legislators to support Critical Race Theory legislation which is likely to be revived in 2023.

The Charleston branch of the NAACP has engaged the work of shifting the narrative of King Day from the Dream King to the Healing King to address issues of health disparities that have disproportionately affected the lives of African Americans since our ancestors arrived as human cargo on slave ships.

Since December 2021, the NAACP and the Partnership of African American Churches (PAAC) have administered COVID vaccinations across the state with commendable success. The Healing King focus would overlap two of the “Three Evils of American Society” — racism and economic injustice, that the Inconvenient King addressed in 1967.

MLK Day events will continue to celebrate the Convenient King because it is fashionable and safe. Yet, the voice and vision of the Radical King speaks to the agony of the age in the power of NOW!

Rev. Ron English is President of the Charleston Branch NAACP and former Ministerial Assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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