Assemblymember Taylor: Honoring the Life & Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1983, a federal holiday on the third Monday in January was established to celebrate one of the most influential leaders in American history, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A vibrant visionary and global icon of activism, unity and progress, Dr. King dedicated his life to realizing the dream he had for our nation in which men, women and children of all backgrounds would live together in peace and “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”[1]

Dr. King not only captivated the hearts and minds of millions across the nation through his fiery and inspired words, but he knew true change required action. He led by example and was an instrumental figure in many of the most significant nonviolent civil rights demonstrations in our nation’s history, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington in 1963, where he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd of over 200,000 demonstrators, and the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Though he was arrested over two dozen times, physically assaulted, and had his home bombed, he did not waver. In the 13 years he served as a leader of the civil rights movement, Dr. King demonstrated unrelenting courage and resilience in the fight for racial and economic equality.

As we honor Dr. King on what is now both a holiday and a national day of service, his legacy serves as a reminder that we cannot be satisfied until every person is truly free of injustice and afforded the opportunity to succeed. Dr. King warned against “the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”[2] While we celebrate the progress we have made, we cannot stop now. Though segregation may have been outlawed over half a century ago, we are far from living in a post-racial society. Hate crimes in the nation’s largest cities are at the highest they have been in over a decade,[3] African-Americans are five times more likely than white Americans to be incarcerated,[4] and young African-Americans are half as likely as young white Americans to have a college degree.[5]

Dr. King was a strong advocate for economic reform, which he stressed was inextricably tied to the civil rights of African-Americans. It seems we are still fighting for many of the same principles Dr. King fought for all those years ago. New York State has long been a standard-bearer for progressive policy, and the Assembly is committed to upholding that mantle. In the Assembly, we continue to strive to provide individuals with the basic tools they need to lift themselves up, such as affordable health care, a world-class education, and a livable wage. We are also fighting for sweeping reforms to our criminal justice system because it has disproportionately targeted black and brown Americans for far too long. We are taking these steps to ensure that we are continuing to honor Dr. King’s legacy and his vision of equality.

            If you have any questions or concerns about any community issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact my office at 212-234-1430.

[2] Ibid.