April 4, 2018

The 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Death; Protests in Sacramento over the Killing of Steven Clark, and EQ4ALL@LLS’s Second Year Telling the Stories of Individuals Committed to Fighting for Equality and Equity for All

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Tributes were held throughout America to honor this civil rights icon. Dr. King’s last speech was delivered amidst a labor protest following the needless death of two African-American sanitation workers. The message set forth on the placards carried on the protestor’s shoulders was simple: I Am A Man. The timelessness of this message continues to resonates. Black Lives Matter. Although such words should never have to be uttered – especially a half-century after Dr. King’s death – study after study demonstrates the neglect and disparate treatment still routinely visited on minorities, especially those living in impoverished areas. Despite this harsh reality, Dr. King’s legacy is so powerful that it cuts across many demographics. Stevie Wonder and other celebrities from various fields created a music video commemorating Dr. King, which was disseminated via an inaugural tweet by Wonder timed at the exact moment of Dr. King’s death. Wonder urged others to similarly post videos marked by the hashtag #DreamStillLives. And at least one conservative pundit took a moment today to highlight Dr. King’s message. Sean Hannity, a top conservative radio and television personality, devoted a fair amount of the opening segment of his radio show to play an extended segment from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Hannity praised Dr. King’s eloquent words that envisioned an America free of racial division. Is it possible that universal respect for Dr. King will one day forge a path to the end of racism in America?

Speaking of Black Lives Matter . . .  Protests continued in Sacramento following the gunning down of Steven Clark in the backyard of his grandmother’s home. Clark was holding a cell-phone, which police assert was mistaken for a weapon when they opened fire. The intensity of the protests increased when an independent autopsy found that Clark was shot seven times in the back. Some of the protests blocked entry to NBA games by the hometown team, the Sacramento Kings. In a defining moment, the owners of Sacramento Kings sided with the protestors and announced an alliance with local groups – including a Black Lives Matter group – to transform impoverished black communities in the Sacramento area.     

And on a final related note, EQ4ALL#@LLS enters its second year! Our site was purposefully launched on last-year’s anniversary of Dr. King’s death. Our mission statement reflects one of Dr. King’s core messages: the sin of prejudice begins with the othering of an oppressed minority. Othering permits a dominant group to refuse to treat an oppressed minority with the dignity and respect that should be afforded to all individuals. Whether such treatment is based upon ignorance or outright animus, it does not change the devastating impact on victims. Recognizing that every human being is just that – a human being – is the simple step that has the power to soften even the most hardened bigot. And it certainly can change the perspective of the uninformed. Notably, Bernice King, a minister and Dr. King’s youngest child, indicated that her father would embrace a myriad of current movements, specifically including #METOO and the Parkland students’ campaign against gun violence. This is because her father fought for “inclusion for all.” Let’s honor Dr. King’s legacy and stand united to both challenge othering and fight for equality and equity not just for ourselves, but for all oppressed minorities.

Editor’s Note: For an excellent article about Reverend Bernice King’s views of the guidance her father would offer regarding today’s circumstances, click here.  

March 28, 2018

#MarchForOurLives –Children, Adults, and Celebrities Come Out Strong to Fight for Relief from Gun Violence for All, First LGBTQ Pride Parade Set for Columbus, Indiana, and the L.A. Rams Break with Tradition and Name the First Male Cheerleaders in NFL History

March 24, 2018 marked the March For Our Lives protest in Washington D.C. and in hundreds of other locations throughout the United States and the world. The movement arose after the tragic deaths of 17 high school students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. One of the most stunning moments occurred when Emma González – a survivor of the attack – stood silent at the podium to commemorate the 6 minutes and 20 seconds the gunman repeatedly fired into throngs of students during the Valentine’s Day massacre. Other touching moments came as a result of the Parkland students purposeful reach out to students of color in communities such as Chicago, Illinois, who face gun violence on a regular basis. The energized and impassioned campaign has garnered comparisons to the 1960s wave of activism by college-aged students to challenge the Vietnam War. Taking a non-partisan approach, the Parkland students made clear that they do not endorse any political candidates. Rather, the students endorse an agenda that not only seeks to end school shootings like the one in Parkland, but to protect all students from any form of gun violence. Bipartisan support also was reflected by countless celebrities and athletes supporting the movement. Notably, Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, lent his personal jet to transport Parkland students to the D.C. March.

The Parkland students weren’t the only high-schoolers stepping up to take action. Erin Bailey, a high-school senior from Columbus, Indiana is the organizer of what will be the first LGBTQ Pride Parade in that city. Columbus is the hometown of Vice-President Mike Pence, who is known for his anti-LGBTQ views. In 2015, while governor of Indiana, Pence sighed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to openly discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community. The bill, which generated massive boycotts and immediate condemnation, subsequently was amended. Columbus’ inaugural Pride parade will take place on April 14, 2018, with all of the usual fanfare and accoutrements. It will double as Erin’s high-school senior project.

Speaking of firsts . . . our Los Angeles Rams have made NFL history by naming two male dancers to its cheerleading squad. Quinton Peron and Napolean Jinnies both are classically-trained dancers who have performed throughout their lives. Competition was fierce and call-back auditions spanned a three-week period. While two other NFL teams – the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts  -- have had “stunt men,” no other NFL team has ever included men in their traditional cheerleading squad. Go Quinton! Go Napolean! Go Rams!