On what would have been the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday, hundreds of people gathered in the world famous Apollo Theater to answer a question the late civil rights leader asked 50 years ago, “Where do we go from here?”
Moderated by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer and Jami Floyd, “Where Do We Go From Here? MLK and the Future Of Inclusion,” was an interactive panel discussion and spoken word performance debating the future of people of color in the dawn of a Donald Trump presidency. Dr. King’s final book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” found King reflecting on the past. In the speech, King looks back on the success of the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s and concludes that Black folks must unite to fight poverty. King biographer Rabbi Ben Kamin said that at the time of the speech in April 1967, King always remained hopeful, although he was tired and weary.
Fifty years after “Where Do We Go From Here?” the words of Dr. King’s speech were presented in context to the challenges people of color face after President Obama’s presidency. Both Obama and King have spoken extensively about hope.
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But with years of hindsight on MLK’s legacy, the moderators asked “How can we continue uplift young people who feel disappointed after the election?”
President of the Brooklyn NAACP chapter L. Joy Williams offered this advice to them:
“Empower your power. Give them the civil education you need to help become the change you want to see. The power comes from us individually and collectively. I want you to walk around empowered and entitle that you have a say so in this government. You have the power to change that. You are the person that you are looking for.”
The panelists all agreed on active resistance. They encouraged young people to continue fighting.
“This can’t be four years of us complaining about what Trump tweeted last night. Our level of outrage does not match our action. We have to figure out ways our daily actions can affect policy,” panelist and New York Daily News writer Shaun King told the crowd.
Even with the incoming administration, social justice organizations aren’t completely changing their strategies. Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi said despite the fear of the incoming cabinet, the mission of BLM doesn’t change.
“[Our mission] remains the same. We are committed to build a democracy that works for all of us. We are not living in normal times. I’m sober in the fact that we have to find the spiritual conviction to resist at every single level.”
The panel’s final question of “Where Do We Go From Here?” elicited many different responses.
Minister and writer Joshua Lawrence Lazard said, “Use the privilege you have for the people who don’t.”
Above the Law editor Eli Mystal believes resistance might take more. “At what point is it time to go to jail? It might literally involve going to jail to affect these policies.”
But L. Joy Williams said people have to reach out to the less fortunate for to truly move forward.
“You can’t ask someone who don’t know if they’re going to eat tomorrow to fight. We have to fight for them.”