#ReclaimMLK is a movement put together to keep people from sensationalizing what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for. MLK was an amazing man. He was a monumental force in empowerment and equality and he deserves the legacy he has created. What Dr. King was not was a god. In the years since Dr. King’s death the world has transformed this man into a myth: given him the mystical ability to resist all human desires and made him more peaceful than Mother Theresa and Gandhi combined. The world has turned the same man who said that “a riot is the language of the unheard” into someone who would weep at the protests (the vast majority of which ARE nonviolent) going on across the globe. The world has turned MLK into a man who only spoke on race issues, and whose dream of white children and Black children being together meant we should all settle to be in white spaces having nothing for ourselves. The world has made MLK into some model of perfection that all Black people must follow otherwise they will never get anything done or change any issues. I call bull shit on that.
The idea that we should rescue MLK from being turned into “Santa Claus” (s/o to Dr. Cornel West) is a fantastic one. All too often we idolize our leaders and prominent people so much that we honestly start to believe that they can do/did no wrong. That is why I loved the movie Selma so much. Not only did it show us a snapshot of the Movement and how powerful it was, but it also showed us that MLK was a human being. (SPOILER ALERT!) They bring up the fact that MLK cheated on Coretta, suggested that he probably didn’t care much for Malcolm X (Yes I know they took a picture together. Yes I know that they respected each other. But you do know you can respect someone and not like them right? I personally always thought of their relationship like these two’s relationship), and addressed the criticisms of him being a “respectable negro”. I love that the movie humanized Dr. King and made him more of a tangible person, and I love that this movement forces us to remember what this man really died for.
So you’re probably wondering where the “Not #ReviveMLK” part comes from. Well let’s go back to the MLK being a respectable negro accusations. Yes, we should always honor MLK and always pay respect to the legacy he created, but NEWS FLASH, MLK is no longer with us. MLK was a wonderful leader, but we are in a new time now. A time where a lot of MLK’s respectability politics just wouldn’t go over as well. Having MLK back to lead us is just what those people who swear by respectability politics want; someone who will teach us to be “good little Black people” so that they can continue what they are doing without any of us inconveniencing anyone. It is understandable to feel that being sweet and kind will show people that you are human and deserving of respect, but ANOTHER NEWS FLASH. We’ve been doing that for 50 years and it hasn’t worked yet. It’s time for a new plan of action. As I say all the time, there is a reason why both Martin and Malcolm were needed; sometimes you have to demand people’s attention. It is also worth noting that towards the end of his life MLK started to become more like Malcolm (and vice versa). MLK started discussing economic disparities and wondering about the future of his people in this country they try to call home. He began to worry how long Black people would be able to sit quietly and take the abuse they had been given.
This doesn’t mean we’re all rabid violent animals without leaders these days. We have them, they’re just not in the same package as MLK. We can go down the list of murders of Black men, women, boys and girls and think about how we found out about them; social media is probably the answer for most of us. We found out about the murders, the truth surrounding them, the piss poor coverups, and the protests for them through our social media feeds. If the Black church was the gathering point for justice during MLK’s time, then Black Twitter is our gathering point now. By that same token, if MLK was the major force during that time and he was a reverend, shouldn’t the leader of this time be a popular social media personality? The answer is YES. Our leaders now come in the form of people like @brownblaze, who was constantly on the “mainstream” news updating them on the progress of our movement. Our leaders come in the form of people like @FeministaJones, who explains constantly advocates for equality with her popular book and precise viewpoints. Our leaders come in the form of people like the Son of Baldwin, who refuses to let the LGBT voices in any movement be silenced. These three and many, many more work tirelessly to continue the dream that MLK started but was not able to complete. We have many leaders in many different capacities; just not the ones that folks like Oprah, Al Sharpton (sorry frat), and the like are looking for. I think people like them believe that #ReclaimMLK means we are trying (or should be trying) to #ReviveMLK, and that's not the case at all.
During today’s time when people are sick of being nice about our brothers and sisters being murdered in the streets and their homes we need leaders like them to really push this movement to in people’s faces. Remember SNCC and CORE? Young people were needed alongside elders then and are needed now, and while people wait for the new MLK these people are working. #BlackLivesMatter wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if we waited for a MLK like leader. #ICantBreathe wouldn’t be all over t-shirts and the media if we waited for a MLK like leader. #BoycottBlackFriday, #ItsBiggerThanYou, #HandsUpDontShoot…Our new leaders organized these movements, gave them coverage before mainstream media found them and continue to do so long after they have moved on. We cannot ignore them and wait for "the next leader”; let’s stop looking for what we already have.
I don’t want you to think this is about bashing Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is not. I just realize that MLK is no longer with us, and no matter how much some people want him to he is not coming back. Why, then, are we begging for it to happen? MLK was a great force for his time, but this is a new time for new leaders, and instead of looking down on them and waiting for the next perfect respectable leader; why not at least hear what they have to say? We saw in Selma how much the youth in the movement motivated MLK. If listening to the youth was good enough for him, is it not good enough for us? Don’t let the dream pass you by looking for a memory, and don’t let the dream pass you by looking for an illusion. We should always honor the true legacy of MLK not only by reclaiming him, but by continuing his true work.
What do you think of the #ReclaimMLK movement and the movie Selma? Can you think of any new leaders to add to this list? Leave your questions, comments, and concerns below, and remember to like, comment, share and subscribe if you enjoyed the post!