According to his wife Coretta Scott King, "the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example - the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King's character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit."
What many people may not know is that his wife Coretta was a champion of LGBT equality. She said, "I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation." She pointed out that, "Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Ga. and St. Augustine, Fla., and many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions."
Below is a video taken at the 1996 Atlanta gay pride festival. In it, Mrs. King shares her, "wholehearted support for freedom from discrimination for gay and lesbian people." One of her main points is the need for unity among minority groups. She quotes her husband who said "I have fought too long and hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concerns. Justice is indivisible." She calls for all groups who experience discrimination to work together to create synergy. Mrs. King says, "The civil rights movement I believe in thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion."
According to Mrs. King, "This holiday honors the courage of a man who endured harassment, threats and beatings, and even bombings. We commemorate the man who went to jail 29 times to achieve freedom for others, and who knew he would pay the ultimate price for his leadership, but kept on marching and protesting and organizing anyway. Every King Holiday has been a national 'teach-in' on the values of nonviolence, including unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, which are so desperately-needed to unify America. It is a day of intensive education and training in Martin's philosophy and methods of nonviolent social change and conflict-reconciliation. The Holiday provides a unique opportunity to teach young people to fight evil, not people, to get in the habit of asking themselves, 'what is the most loving way I can resolve this conflict?'" In the context of recent events, I can think of no better message.
Photo Credit. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c16775