January 16, 2020

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation Remembers the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

On April 4, 1968, American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee.

Dr. King had, since 1955, been among the most prominent voices raised in the battle against segregation and for civil rights. His activist career began with the organization of a 385-day bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in support of Rosa Parks and continued with the later establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), through which non-violent protests would be organized and deployed as a strategy against segregation in Albany, Georgia, Birmingham, Alabama, St. Augustine, Florida, Selma, Alabama, and other cities.

Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his non-violent activism. A powerful speaker, his “I have a dream” speech given during the March on Washington in 1963 is considered to be among the greatest speeches given in American history.

Dr. King’s activism in support of civil rights continued in Selma, Alabama (1965) in support of voting rights, in Chicago (1966), to shine a light on discrimination in housing and with the SCLC organized the Poor People’s Campaign to focus attention on issues of economic injustice.

Even the day before his murder, Dr. King spoke out against violence and told his listeners that they could achieve social change through non-violence: “We don’t have to argue with anybody …. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails.”

In honour of Dr. King’s legacy, the third Monday of every January since 1986 has been marked as Martin Luther King Day in the United States and other jurisdictions, including Toronto, Ontario.

“The complete fulfilment of Dr. King’s dream of equal treatment, respect and opportunity for all people has not yet been achieved,” said Teresa Woo-Paw Chairperson of the Board, CRRF. “But his vision continues to inspire us to work toward the day when people will ‘not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’”

About the Canadian Race Relations Foundation

The purpose of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society. The work of the Foundation is premised on the desire to create and nurture an inclusive society based on equity, social harmony, mutual respect and human dignity. Its underlying principle in addressing racism and racial discrimination emphasizes positive race relations and the promotion of shared Canadian values of human rights and democratic institutions.

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