Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Written by: Web Brown
SVP, Racial Equity Diversity & Inclusion

As we prepare to celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—on Monday, January 17—we are reminded of his many teachings on justice, struggle, and non-violent resistance. Dr. King was a pastor, scholar, civil rights activist, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  Dr. King has long been at the moral center of America’s arduous progression toward a more racially just society.

Dr. King grew up in a time when the term, “separate but equal,” was taught across the country; a time where things may have been separate but were never equal for blacks and whites. Known as the Jim Crow laws, Blacks were not allowed to stay in the same hotels, attend the same schools, and even eat at the same restaurants as whites. It was during this time however that Dr. King and his allies convened, and the Black resistance movement was formed.

Dr. King had a transformative vision and he sparked Americans’ imagination by capturing the nation’s conscience through his powerful words. Though he was not the first to advocate for racial equality, Dr. King and many of his allies were instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Their belief that all people are created equal and thus deserve to be treated as such became a rallying cry for this country moving forward.

A half-century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the injustices of those who have been historically marginalized continue in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. In 1967, Dr. King said, “I am in the heart-changing business. But if morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated.” This signaled what was true then and still is true today: the pathway to a more racially just society goes through the hearts and minds of individuals, including each of us at Mercy Housing. Dr. King’s words continue to encourage and guide us in understanding that the hard work of ensuring and protecting racial equity never ends.

Each of us should take the time to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and to also reflect on justice – how far we have come and how far we still have to go and to continue the work necessary to realize his dream.  One of the many things that make Mercy Housing such a special place is our commitment to honoring all human experiences as integral and valuable. It is critical to achieving our mission and living out our values of respect, justice, and mercy.