Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior. A generation has passed but his message resonates in modern times. Local citizens and elected officials share what they think his message means to them.
“I think we sort of put him up as a hallmark card in January and February for his birthday then for Black History Month and I think we lose a lot of his message that was sort of radical even today. He was a socialist, he preached love thy neighbor, look out for the most vulnerable and I think we like to say he loved everyone and wanted us to love everyone, but now our religion is focused more on prosperity and purity than it is on love thy neighbor, who’s the most vulnerable in our community. I think a lot of young people are getting back in touch not just peaceful protest, but also standing up for those who are the most vulnerable in our community,” said Levette Guller, Shreveport resident.
“It means to give grace and thanks to the elders of black knowledge. I think it started because racism still happens. MLK Day still stands because people have their differences,” said Erick Roye, Southern University Shreveport student.
“I think there’s still a message of how do we treat the most vulnerable, the poor, how we look out for equity with regard to race and wealth disparity. Still here in Caddo Parish we have 48-percent of individuals who are considered working-poor. So his message to me means we have to continue be an advocate for those individuals, we have to stand up for positions that aren’t always popular, and we have to be willing to accept the consequences for standing up and speaking truth to power,” said Steven Jackson, Caddo Parish Commissioner District 3.
“It’s relevant to us now because we’re in changing times. We’re in a world where issues of justice are still unsolved. All of those are still important. It’s important that we have an open dialogue and be able to put ideas forward. At the end of Martin Luther King Junior’s final book, which was a really interesting book that talks about things we’re still dealing with as a society. Things like automation, the role of workers in our economy, the consolidation of wealth. These are things that very much still big issues that people are talking about. So he obviously was a very forward-thinking mind and that why we celebrate him and remember him in his tragic loss today,” said Jeff Everson, Shreveport City Council District B.
Dr. King’s role in Shreveport lives on with new efforts to restore the place he once spoke. In 1958 Doctor King spoke at the Old Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport. The church has been in disrepair for years, but a recent 500-thousand dollar grant will help restore it and turn it into a Civil Rights museum.