On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The image of him lying there mortally wounded on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel will forever be etched in my memory.
Dr. King’s March on Washington five years earlier was not merely for African-American’s civil rights. It was a campaign to confront the inequalities that existed then between the haves and the have-nots in jobs, wages and housing throughout our nation.
He had come to Memphis in support of a strike by eleven hundred African-American sanitation workers who had walked off their jobs after two of their co-workers had been crushed to death by a garbage truck's compactor. Their strike had been met with a great deal of opposition and violence.
Weeks earlier Dr. King had gone there for meetings and to lead a march through the streets of Memphis. The rally had ended in hostility. Upset by the violence, Dr. King returned to Memphis to try and bring a peaceful end to the enmity. The night before his death, he made his prophetic "Mountaintop" speech:
"Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!"The next day he was murdered. Eventually, the strike was settled. Begrudgingly, the garbage men's union was recognized by the city of Memphis. Their pay was increase by a mere 15 cents.
Though much has changed for the better, economically the disparities and injustices that exist today are perhaps even more profound. The recent economic meltdown and recession created by “trickled-down” economics left our nation teetering on the brink of another great depression.
While the top 1% enjoy inconceivable prosperity, the poor, as well as the middle-class, are struggling to survive.
The conservative free-market, greed-driven ideology of the ‘right’ has all but destroyed Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ and left our nation fractured and our economy 'fixed'.