Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot while standing on his balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
It has been 44 years since the civil rights leader was killed, and depending on whom you ask, the United States still has far to go regarding race relations – and regarding a number of other issues King championed.
We asked local community leaders to share one issue that is important today that they think King would have taken a stand on.
Certainly the child poverty issue would be a big concern of his, ensuring that every child had every opportunity to really reach their full potential. When a childs in poverty, theres a lot of things that suffer. King was all about poverty. He was all about his stance on getting (poor) people to a point where they can really compete (and trying) to level the playing field for people in poverty. Poverty is really the issue of the root cause of a lot of the problems that people have because they dont have access to certain things.
– Joe Jordan, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne
I think (King would focus on) the division of our country. I think thats one of the issues hed be facing. Were becoming a nation of Us vs. Them, the 99 (percent) vs. the 1 (percent), Blue vs. The Red, and were all supposed to be one nation under God. I think if Martin was alive today, he would really address this Poor vs. Rich and all this craziness thats going on in the world and in the United States today. It divides us as a country. His dream was that one day wed sit down together as brothers, and we would (address) the difference between black and white or brown and red. It would be all of us as one country, and we would work together to achieve a common goal.
– Lafayette Lee Jordan, Indiana House District 84 candidate and owner of BJs Fish & Chips
I think his focus in the 21st century today would be more about finding ways to unite the African-American culture more so than fighting for justice and equality. He would be fighting for unity among the culture. The Trayvon Martin (case in Florida) is a clear sign of that. I think Martin Luther Kings focus would be more on, How do I unite a people who have somewhat separated and has dismantled itself to each other, and how do I unite those people back together to become a strong force in society? I believe that would be a challenge for him and a focus for him. As an African-American male, you dont see a lot of cohesiveness in our culture, and with our children coming up, theyre not seeing it either.
Equality is not something that can ever be achieved when youre dealing with different types of people because every one brings something different to the table. But unity is something you can achieve by having simply one mind, one focus, one mission, one desire to achieve. I think once we achieve that as a people, well be able to see our kids benefit from it. Well be able to see our neighbors benefit from that.
I see the battle of injustice, and I feel that that battle will be forever. It will always happen. Its just gonna be there. But the unity that you see among the people in our country against that injustice is more powerful than the equality itself, and I wish that Trayvon Martin would have saw that before he died. Hundreds of thousands of children who are watching that today might be inspired to wake up and be part of the solution and not the problem. That unity is powerful.
– Marshall White, founder/CEO of Unity Performing Arts Foundation Inc. and director of Voices of Unity choir
While we have come a long way since Martin Luther King, Jr. was fighting for equality, were certainly not there yet. I believe he would still be fighting not only for racial equality, but for social justice as well. We have a long way to go on both fronts.
– Michael A. Wartell, IPFW chancellor