BY: SONNY PINKNEY
The year ‘1968’ will be remembered by many, as a year they’ll never forget. For those who were alive and witnessed the events that transpired, it was filled with tragedy, triumph and uncertainty. With Vietnam War escalating, the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr., and (1968 Democratic Presidential Candidate) Robert F. Kennedy; to the formation of the ‘Poor People’s’ campaign—those events which changed the landscape of the United States, had a lasting impact on this country.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was murdered by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee, sadly, couldn’t witness the culmination of his hard work, dedication and countless hours of organizing the ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ that focused on Jobs, Justice and Peace for all citizens which took place from May 12th-June 24th, 1968 in Washington D.C. Also, the legislation of the ‘Civil Rights Act of 1968’ or the ‘Fair Housing Act’ was ratified a week following his untimely assassination.
The ‘Fair Right Housing Act’ was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson which prohibited property owners to discriminate regardless of race, color, religion, gender or national origin with individual(s) seeking housing.
Feedbackthemagazine.com spoke to the current CEO and President of the S-C-L-C (Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. to get his thoughts on the organization’s founding President and his accomplishments.
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first realized that he needed a ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ in Marks, Mississippi when he saw the impoverishment of the people there in Marks, they didn’t have any food. The babies and children had swollen bellies—like a third world country. That’s when Dr. King made the point, and with this point gave him a target to be assassinated.” Steele said.
Steele believes Dr. King was killed for two reasons: King’s feelings on the living conditions among the residents in Marks, Mississippi; and when he gave a speech in New York, a year prior to his untimely death—resisting the Vietnam War.
“[On] April 4th, 1967, when he gave his speech at Riverside church opposed the Vietnam War, that was the first time that Dr. King knew that the [United States] government was going to really come after him, when he took that stand—and Marks, Mississippi.
According to Dr. Steele, the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, King confided to Rev. Ralph Abernathy that they’d have to organize a march in the nation’s capital.
‘We have to march and go and demonstrate in Washington D.C. for the ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ because America is too rich to have any poverty to the degree that we have it today.’ King believed.
King, who was the founding president of the S-C-L-C (Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1957-68 rationale for planning the ‘Poor People’s Campaign was to transition from civil rights to human rights.
The landscape of America was changing, the Vietnam War which would conclude seven years later, made the late-great Muhammad Ali an icon and a martyr by refusing draft induction into the Vietnam War for his religious convictions—also, citing ‘No Viet Cong’ never called me [Ali] the N-word’ and the ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ executed under the stewardship of Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy following the sudden assassination of Dr. King. Abernathy led demonstrators from various racial backgrounds ranging from: African, Native, White, Asian and Hispanic Americans to Washington D.C. to achieve economic justice for the poor within America.
Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. revealed to feedbackthemagazine.com that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be highly disappointed with the advancement of African Americans.
“People don’t understand the difference between having freedom and citizenship—see you can be free and still not be a citizen because of the invalid rights that goes along with the citizenship of your participation in a country.” Steele believes.
When asked: Will black people ever be free? Steele responded by saying the following: “Freedom is something that you fight for every day. Having freedom is a constant fight, you can’t pass a bill and say we’re free.” Steele said.
The SCLC was established in January 1957 following the Montgomery Bus Boycott victory is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2018.