In my new book, Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, I write about the legacy Dr. King left amongst organizers for social justice and the role Kingian nonviolence continues to play in organizing strategy.

There is no better example of “playing bigger than you are” than the centuries-long struggle for justice for African-Americans. From the struggle for emancipation led by former slaves and Black intellectuals like Frederick Douglass and clergy like William Lloyd Garrison, and goes on to include the hundred-year struggle for post-slavery freedom led by giants like Dubois, A. Philip Randolph, and Dr. King. Organizers for racial justice in America have fought overwhelming odds.

Dr. King developed his ideas and strategy for nonviolent struggle in part from realizing the power of the opposition was superior and that no other strategy would be successful.

But at this time when we honor Dr. King, let us remember he knew the movement he led and the struggle he engaged in were much larger than freedom for African-Americans. He understood that freedom for African-Americans would mean freedom for all Americans.

And he knew social freedom and racial justice were not enough.

Dr. King was just as committed to economic justice. He once asked what good it is to be able to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t buy a hamburger? Of course, he died while leading a strike of working poor sanitation workers in Memphis. His last campaign, which brought him to Memphis, was The Poor People’s Campaign.

The financial elite, the corporate media, and radical rightwing politicians like Georgia native Newt Gingrich this weekend portray King as a “dreamer,’ a “drum major,” innocent and non-threatening.

Those of us whose lives have been changed by the struggle and vision of Dr. King would do well to remember he was with the 99 percent. He was one of the world’s greatest organizers. He believed in action, not just dreams. He never gave in to power. Dr. King disrupted the status quo and business-as-usual in the Jim Crow south and challenged the polite racism of the north. And, as Jesus did, Dr. King turned over the tables of the moneychangers in Memphis and Selma and Albany and, especially, Montgomery.

With 50 percent of Americans living in poverty; with our country’s greatest-ever income inequality; with the growing, abusive power of the 1 percent [the financial elite], we truly need Dr. King’s message and vision more than ever. We need his real message of struggle and organizing and sacrifice and rigorous strategy and economic justice, not the financial elite’s scrubbed and sanitized version of Dr. King. We need the version he lived and he died for. Dr. King understood “playing bigger than you are.”

(I hope you will read my new book available at Levins Publishing, Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing.)

stewartacuff

stewartacuff

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