The Legacy Beyond “I Have a Dream”

Categories: Still Standing

This time each year, many take the time to revisit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through his speeches, biography and more. Various legislation and activism have arisen across generations after his death. There’s no debate that some of the same questions sparked during his life still need to be answered today. Our #UntilJusticeJustIs campaign is just one way we actively work towards implementing Dr. King’s mission. After all, an organization is made of individuals and we value the lived experiences of our entire community.

Observance of Martin Luther King Day is a very personal experience. This year, to observe Dr. King’s legacy, we would like to share reflections from our staff:

Nicole Robinson, Chief Executive Officer

There is so much about Dr. King’s legacy that has transformed who we are as society, but what inspires me personally is how he alongside other civil rights leaders built a revolutionary movement which shined a light on the social economic and political inequities faced by Black Americans. He was the architect of the playbook upon which every modern American human rights movement would form its strategy from women’s rights to occupy wall street to Black Lives Matter. It was the original template for changing our world by moving beyond the isolation of ourselves to advance our collective well-being.

Dr. King Jr. expressed it best when he said, “We are tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be, until I am what I ought to be.” 

These words so eloquently capture the values embedded in the movement that we must cling to tightly if we hope to not only preserve the rights King advanced, but achieve the racial, economic, and political justice of which we all dream.

Diamond Cotton, Wellness Network Case Manager

Dr. King and his legacy is one of the most inspirational things that has ever occurred in the world. His bold actions and using his God given preaching gift to help others is the most inspiring thing that has happened during the time of segregation. He motivated thousands of people to stand up during the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s. Dr. King’s impact on African Americans in the 1950’s is what impacted me in today’s society. If it wasn’t for his braveness, drive, consistency, leadership, and boldness, who knows where African Americans would be standing today. I think it is very inspiring that children today learn about Dr. King being a leader, and all that he accomplished during the time of segregation. Dr. King is the most talked about Civil Rights leader in America. One of the last things that I think is inspiring is that Dr. King earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. As an African American male, winning that award gave other African Americans hope that it would be a change for our future and our children’s future.

Patrick Edwards, Administrative Assistant (StreetWise)

At the very least, I make it a point to uplift anyone I encounter; now, that's anyone of any race, color/shade, size, religious belief, etc. I have to admit, I am a fan of my race, which is Black (Yes, when I watch Family Feud—past or present—I automatically root for the Black family, and I don't feel too bad because it's just in me...and I believe Dr. King's teachings would be okay with this, seeing as I feel the fact that when we make it onto these shows now, we're not at such a disadvantage. Now, sometimes, there still appears to be a slight bias...but we [Black folks] are getting better at overcoming this). Let me add that I do my best to impart any wisdom/knowledge that I have in regard to race/equality matters [taught by Dr. King] to those close in my circle, especially my nephews and nieces (and grand-nephews and -nieces).

To be honest, in my mind, I've laughed about it over the years and said "Thank you for having a day off!" No more do I lie to myself about something that truly means so much more than that to me. I recall watching ALL of the documentaries in black and white, on channel 11 and WGN and dang near all of the channels on, at least, Dr. King's official celebrated date. As I age, I admit, my intentions of doing something great on the day has waned; not because of lower desires, but more in rest mode. However, I realize—especially as I write this--that we have so much further to go; that, though we've put in work and have progressed and are progressing, we still have a LONG way to go. Dr. King, and many who traveled with him, and those who put forth the same lessons (or nearly the same teachings)—including those before him—would want us to motivate and keep things oiled and moving in a positive direction. I'm going to consider that as I remember this moment I am having as I spill forth my thoughts.

What inspires me about Dr. King and his legacy is that he was still such a young man when he preached and marched and motivated and led and evoked change—and when he died. Now, I believe there were—and are—many people (not only Black) who are in this game until the end, and they will help get us to that mountaintop, even if it takes his/her life, and Martin Luther King, Jr., just had a lil' bit extra that is needed for a movement than many others. The one thing that inspires me the most about Martin Luther King, Jr., is that he didn't leave many behind—if any. He led a nation of people on a journey—Black, white, Hispanic, Asian—and he knew how to use his influence to gather a team made up of preachers, hustlers, professors...AND the nation of people who followed him—both physically and within his learnings...learnings that the Great Dr. King learned himself from others before and concurrent with his own life.

Sheree Gilmore, Workforce Programs Manager

I have made a conscious decision to work for an organization that advocates human rights and equality. In my position, I promote equality and services that impact women and families to have economic sustainability. My work is a landscape that creates a path for dreams coming true. Dr. King's legacy lives on in my work and in the full scope of the people and departments I work with.

It means that a king has been recognized and appreciated for what he achieved as a leader in the civil rights movement and in humanity. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day means we will forever speak his name and be reminded that one day we will live in a nation where my grandchildren and their grandchildren will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I am inspired by Dr. King's belief and trust in God, and how he wore that trust as his armor of protection. I am inspired by how he helped organize the March on Washington and his electrifying, I Have a Dream Speech. I am inspired by his strength, purpose, intelligence, and manner of peace. He was a man of integrity. And though he lived through great adversity and danger, his resolve was to push on no matter the cost. There are so many moments in my lifetime of seeing and listening to Dr. King, and I am grateful and fully inspired to dream his dream every day.

Alisa Jackson, FamilyWorks Director

In the YWCA FamilyWorks program we host youth & family events to commemorate Dr. King and raise awareness for social justice. I also work with community partners and the faith community to advance the principles of Dr. King’s legacy.

MLK Day is an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the Civil Rights Movement and to pay homage to the brave men and women (many of whom were no more than teenagers) who fought for justice. My prayer is that we re-embrace the ideals of that time and restore the dignity and respect demonstrated by our predecessors.

Dr. King dedicated his life to the cause of civil rights and social justice. From a trauma-informed lens, I cannot imagine what he and his family lived through day in and day out; living under the constant threat of violence, intimidation, hostility and hate. So much sacrifice and courage. Dr. King’s legacy will be kept alive in my inner circle and beyond for as long as I am around to share it.

Sabrina Lamb, World of Money Founder & Executive Director

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for our legal, social and physical liberation. He also fought for our economic independence. Dr. King’s vision for a “Poor People’s Campaign” brought together a multiracial coalition united in the belief that the moral measure of any society reflects how we treat the least amongst us. Under his “economic bill of rights,” the Poor People’s Campaign demanded that the federal government prioritize helping the poor with a $30 billion anti-poverty package that included a commitment to full employment, a guaranteed annual income, and more low-income housing. He was a proponent of financial education and achieving financial independence. As the Founder/Executive Director of the WorldofMoney, I remain determined to teach all children Dr. King’s legacy and empower them with immersive financial and entrepreneurial education; and the tools to wield their economic power.

Shelley Williams, Business Engagement Specialist

[I work to ensure his legacy lives on by] creating the beloved community everywhere I go. And espouse the Kingenian principles of nonviolence. (a) Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. (b) The beloved community is the framework for the future. (c) Attack the forces of evil not the persons doing evil. (d) Accept suffering w/o retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve a goal. (e) Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence. (f) The universe is on the side of justice.

MLK Jr. Day is a recognition that Dr. King's life and legacy will live on through the annals of time. The Dr. King holiday represents hope in a world that lacks morality.  What most inspires me about Dr. King and his legacy were his courage and unwavering convictions in a very turbulent time in America's history and despite it all his dedication to his life pursuit of addressing human rights and civil rights atrocities and his unyielding fight for freedom and justice for all.

La'Tanga Williams Gavin, Case Management Coordinator

Dr. King is one of the most inspiring black men in this country his legacy and his dreams for a better tomorrow still live on today from Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality to the Marches for Our Lives rallies for better gun control. Dr. King would be amazed with young people of today in their activism taking place more than 50 years after his death.