Happy Birthday, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – A Warrior for Civil Rights, Racial Equality, and the Dignity of Workers

 

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks to Memphis sanitation workers at Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ), on the the evening of April 3, 1968

 

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

THE REVEREND DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

 

Today the nation celebrates and honors the birthday of one history’s greatest and most noble warriors for human rights and social justice, and among its most powerful, effective, and unrelenting emissaries for peace.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, GA.  (In 1934, Michael King, Sr., a Baptist minister, had both his and his son’s name changed to Martin Luther.)

Martin Luther King, Jr. would give his life for the causes for which he battled and which he trumpeted.  He was felled by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968.

Soon after Dr. King’s assassination, a movement to establish a federal holiday in his honor was launched.  In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation that created the national holiday Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – often referred to as MLK Day – was first observed in 1986, even as it would not be until 2000 when all 50 states observed the holiday.  MLK Day is held every year on the third Monday of January, with that date chosen to reconcile closeness to Dr. King’s birthday and the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Dr. King’s life mission for human rights, for social justice, was often directly and deeply entwined in the rights of workers and in ensuring that workers were treated fairly and with respect, and were justly compensated for their labor.

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services was, of course, founded as a labor company.  Yes, more than 30 years ago … in 1987 to be exact … we launched as an enterprise which provided one service exclusively: exhibit installation & dismantle (I&D) labor for tradeshows and events.

Today, we are national leading exhibition services and event management company – which still provides the highest quality exhibit I&D labor.  We are still very much, like we always have been, a labor company.  Labor is at our core.  Labor undergirds all that we do.

Willwork find immense satisfaction and fulfillment in that from coast to coast hundreds of skilled laborers make a very good and secure living with our company.

Willwork values tremendously our workers – who, collectively, form a workforce rich in diversity – and the exceptional effort they deliver to our clients day after day, job after job, project after project.

Willwork is committed to providing our hardworking and talented laborers with opportunity and education and career development.

Willwork surely esteems highly MLK’s mission in life – a mission a major component of which was dedicated to standing up for the laborer.  It was a heroic mission – for Dr. King fully understood that in continuing to do his work and pursue his mission he was putting his life at risk.

Memphis sanitation workers on strike, March 28, 1968 (image credit: Richard Copley)

All too often something that gets lost in the discussion of the life of Dr. King, and of his accomplishments, is the reason that he was in Memphis on that fateful April day in 1968.  He was there to support the city’s African-American sanitation workers who were striking to obtain fair and safe working conditions.

In Memphis, the night before he was murdered, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to sanitation workers assembled in Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ).  This speech is famously remembered as MLK’s “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop Speech.”  If you click here you will be taken to a page at the website of American Rhetoric where you will find the complete text and an audio-recording of      Dr. King’s speech.

Martin Luther King, Jr. concluded the speech – the last speech of his life – with this haunting and prophetic passage:

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. 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!

“And so I’m happy, tonight.

“I’m not worried about anything.

“I’m not fearing any man!”

Debate resounds, and is energetic and active in America, about just where does our republic stand, how far along are we, on the journey to arriving at the “Promised Land” that MLK described envisioned.

Yet we dare say that The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in America.

He believed that if we dug deep, if we worked hard, if we were honest with ourselves, and if we were courageous then the U.S. will arrive at the Promised Land.

America has it in us.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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