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  • T-shirt of MLK next to one recalling the murder of Eric Garner who was strangled to death by the NYPD.

    T-shirt of MLK next to one recalling the murder of Eric Garner who was strangled to death by the NYPD.

Published 16 January 2017
Opinion

Several Black movements across the U.S. have launched a campaign to reject the mainstream image of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Black Lives Matter movement launched a campaign Monday to reclaim the true legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the United States commemorates his anti-racism struggle and civil rights leadership in the 1960s.

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“King had less than 20 percent approval rating during his time. He was not celebrated until he was safely dead and unable to counter gov exploitation,” tweeted the Chicago branch of Black Lives Matter, the anti-police brutality movement that has been active over the past few years in response to many killings of Black people.

“So yes we #ReclaimMLK from the bullshit of capitalist revisionism. King became increasingly anti-capitalist/imperialist and was killed for it.”

The group said the only way to move forward on racial and social justice is to implement the now ignored radical legacy and the peaceful disobedience championed by King as he led the U.S. civil rights movement.

“We must implement the radical measures King died fighting for right now by demanding fully funded schools, health care, jobs, access to housing, free drug-treatment programs and food,” the movement said in an article on the Roots website Monday.

Several Black liberation groups have joined the #ReclaimMLK action as a few protests took off in several cities in the United States.

In their article, Black Lives Matter activists went on to describe how mainstream media in the U.S. systematically misrepresents the Black leader’s legacy. “We have conflated nonviolence with passivity, and we have forgotten that King’s legacy is meeting incredible violence with masses in the street.”

The images used by many media outlets of smiling and thoughtful King, the group argued, is a direct attempt to distance him from the struggle of today’s Black activists, who in fact are inspired by him and his struggle.

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“After being stabbed in Harlem, King organized and marched. When rocks were hurled at him in Chicago, he marched. Facing billy clubs, dogs and hoses in Birmingham, Ala., he marched. From jail, he fought with his pen, and when his own government conspired to destroy his family, he fought back,” they recalled.

But in fact, people who want to be true to King’s legacy, the activists argued, must remember him “when we see protests in the streets, when we watch those in Syria fighting bombs with tweets, when we hashtag and #SayTheirName, we remember and reclaim King’s legacy.”

But the action was also very relevant to present and future challenges facing all people of color in the country, BLM said in a press release Monday.

Reclaiming King’s legacy was also meant to send a message to “a president who is the antithesis of everything Dr. King stood for; a demagogue who galvanized millions by spewing hate and promising to harm the most vulnerable in this nation,” the statement said referring to President-elect Donald Trump.

The movement further highlighted recent attacks against the Muslim community, Black churches and schools as well as hate crimes against other marginalized groups in the U.S. by white supremacists emboldened by the election of Donald Trump.

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