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Monday, January 16 is Martin Luther King Day, a U.S. holiday that recognizes one of the great leaders of the racial justice movement.
But Martin Luther King Jr. was more than a courageous leader who took a stand against racial discrimination. He was central to a broad movement to improve life for everyone. He helped bring forward the idea of non-violent civil disobedience, a concept that forever changed the face of public protest.
It is impossible to have grown up in the decades since his death without having heard his inspirational words. “A right delayed is a right denied,” he taught us. Today, many of his words ring truer than ever. As governments cut programs that help make our society more equal, we may remember, “Almost always, the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better.”
Martin Luther King Day is a day to reflect on the life, beliefs and actions of the man, but more importantly it is a time to recognize the relationships that existed between the American civil rights movement and those elsewhere that sought to gain equality for marginalized people.
He was active in the peace movement and in the women’s movement, earning an award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for “his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social advancement and dignity.”
And he was a friend to the labour movement.
On the day he was assassinated, he had travelled to Memphis, Tennessee, to support sanitation workers in their quest to have a right to bargain collectively.
No cause so noble nor person so great deserves relegation to a single day. But let us take this day as an opportunity to consider the privilege that exists in mainstream Canada and how we, as workers, as activists, as sisters and brothers, can make racial justice and equality a bigger part of every day.
Fred Hahn Candace Rennick
President, CUPE Ontario Secretary Treasurer