MLK50: Activism after the dream

Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., who preached nonviolent resistance to oppression and war, was shot to death in Memphis. He was 39 years old. He left behind a wife and four children and a nation still riven by the divisions he had devoted his life to healing. Yahoo News takes a look back at his life and his legacy in this special report. Jonathan Darman assesses King as a man not without flaws, but with a passion for justice and a conviction that grace can still be found here among us sinners on earth. Senior Editor Jerry Adler looks back on the fateful last year of King’s life, beginning with his electrifying, and controversial, Riverside Church address against the war in Vietnam. National Correspondent Holly Bailey goes back to Selma, Ala., whose poverty moved King to increasingly turn his focus to economic justice, and finds not much has changed in the years since. Reporter Michael Walsh looks at how King almost died in an attack a decade earlier, and how the knowledge of his mortality shaped his ministry and message. Gabriel Noble’s video explains how a new generation of activists draws inspiration from King’s message.

As the leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. fought for equality for all, and the impact of his message continues to inspire the next generation of leaders. On the 50th anniversary of his assassination, Yahoo News celebrates King’s legacy by highlighting current activists and change makers who have committed their lives to fighting for causes they believe in.

Patrisse Cullors, co-founder, Black Lives Matter
When Patrisse Cullors learned that George Zimmerman had been found not guilty in the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, she was driven to action. “I would have never imagined that I would help bring in one of the largest human rights movements for black people in this generation.” Cullors learned from King that it’s OK to be “human as an organizer and as an activist. “

Ben Jealous, former president, NAACP
Ben Jealous fell in love with social action at the age of 14, when he began working for Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. As he surveys the landscape of young leaders being born out of the movements for gun and immigration reform, he reminds us of this message: “Dr. King was very clear that peace is not the absence of strife and confrontation but the presence of justice.”

Cristina Jimenez, co-founder and executive director, United We Dream
Cristina Jimenez heads United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country. As an undocumented immigrant, Cristina was an integral part of the campaign that led to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and she continues to fight for immigration reform. She says that King’s legacy taught her that “the importance of building a multiracial cross-sector movement … ultimately brings to life the fact that we do not live single-issue lives. And we can work together toward the vision that we all share for the country.”

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder and editor, MuslimGirl
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was 9 on September 11, 2001, when New York City was attacked by terrorists and she experienced firsthand the backlash against Muslims in America. Later, as a high school student, she launched, a platform where girls like her could be seen, heard and empowered with positive images and a shared narrative. As she reflects on the civil rights movement led by King, she says “You would expect that everyone can get behind messages of equality and of justice for all people, regardless of their color, or creed or their religion. We have come a long way since the ’60s, but we have a long way to go.”

Demitri Hoth and Samantha Fuentes, mass shooting survivors
The voices of Parkland, Fla., students Demitri Hoth and Samantha Fuentes were ignited after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018 — for fellow students who lost their lives in the shooting and for young people across the country who are victims of gun violence. “We’ve been taught from the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. that it’s through love and not hate, through peace and not violence, that true change happens.”

Jamia Wilson, executive director and publisher, Feminist Press
In 2017, Jamia Wilson became the youngest and the first woman of color to head the Feminist Press, which has been publishing feminist literature from around the world for nearly 50 years. Wilson was deeply moved and inspired to take part in the Women’s March, spreading the message: “No, I am not complicit.” She intends to lead in the spirit of King’s grace, “a kind of activism that is about ‘power together’ and ‘power with’ versus ‘power over’ and ‘domination over.’”

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King and CEO, the King Center
Bernice King, who was just 5 when her father was assassinated, decided at a young age that she wanted to follow in her parents’ footsteps and continue the fight for equal justice. As a minister and activist, King believes her role is to help “equip and empower activist with my father’s nonviolent philosophy.” 


Read more of our coverage of: