This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Dr. King was a life-changer

Anjali Roos is a 10th grade student at Blair High School in Pasadena, Calif. This essay won 1st place in the Pasadena MLK Community Coalition Essay Contest. She runs in track and field, plays electric guitar and enjoys photography.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

A powerful social activist and civil rights leader from the mid-1950’s until 1968, Dr. King relentlessly advocated civil rights and the end to war in an unequal and segregated America.  He moved people to act for their liberation, starting with the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. Tirelessly, he empowered people to use protest marches, boycotts, and sit-ins to get their voices heard. His hard work and legacy bent the arc of justice towards a more equal world.

Yet the work for full equality of all people must continue today.

It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscience of the nation must be startled, the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed.

These words, spoken by Frederick Douglass in 1852, were a call to action to stop living under ignorance and start speaking out, reminding people who were content with our nation that there was unfinished business with regard to freedom and liberty.

Dr. King created earthquakes and fires when he decided to lead marches, sit-ins, boycotts and protests. The most famous example is the March on Washington in 1963 when he led over 200,000 people to protest civil and economic inequality. This massive, powerful protest, along with King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech, caught the eyes of people around the world. The march caused a fire of emotions and feelings in people, which led to passing the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Even though Dr. King’s achievements were great, racism continues to be prevalent today. It shows up in relationships, schools, jobs, and institutions of all kinds. For instance, black kids are three more times likely to be expelled from school than white kids. Black juveniles are more likely to be sentenced to prison than white juveniles, and on top of that, black juveniles are more likely to be viewed as adults in the court system. A black person is more likely to be police-searched than a white person, more likely to be stopped while driving, and more likely to be arrested. These may seem like minor, good-for-nothing statistics, but in reality, it’s a clear racial issue.

Last year, an 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. I felt enraged by this event, not only because of the race factor, but because Wilson shot Brown at least six times. Wilson did not try to hear Browns’ story, where he was coming from or understand the circumstances.

This event angered me so much I organized a protest against police violence at the high school I attended last year.  Many students came out to the street to protest the Ferguson shooting, as well as rising police brutality.

I believe no one person should ever have that much power over deciding a persons’ life. The reaction of rapidly pulling out a gun without even trying to find a peaceful solution gives the idea that it’s okay to hurt and possibly kill others to protect oneself.

I believe the police are not held accountable for their racist actions and therefore hold too much power. More and more stories of police brutality are coming out. But it isn’t so much about unfair treatment between just blacks and whites; all races are affected. Dr. King didn’t just speak about equality between blacks and whites; he meant it for everyone. Equality means fairness in status, rights and opportunities.

A group that sees itself as higher than another, and exploits that power, is not equality.

Dr. King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I believe this and so I strive to educate people about issues that are important to me and improve the world for the better.  Being a life-changer does not mean you have to change the world all at once, or change large groups of peoples’ minds. It doesn’t even have to be a large act. Small acts can be just as empowering and effective. Something as simple as speaking up about issues that aren’t moral, ethical or right. It can be talking to people and empowering them to care. Getting them to say, “I understand better now and I do care.”

I try to help people to see others as people, not as someone they can use.

It’s not just authoritarian, powerful figures such as the police who abuse their power. Corporations also use their power by employing sweatshops and cheap labor. This is not equality, it’s the exact opposite—treating someone like they aren’t worth anything, but are just a means to an end. I want to challenge myself to write letters to corporations that use child labor and sweatshops and traffic people to work for them to tell them it’s wrong. I do try to buy items that are fair trad,e which guarantee that a fair and living wage and good working conditions for people who make the product.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an inspirational civil rights activist, minister, and humanitarian.  He was the fire, the thunder and the earthquake during an important time in U.S. history. While our world has shifted, racism, inequality and war continue to be injustices that de-value human life.

Let us honor Dr. King by keeping the fires burning and never being silent about the issues that matter.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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