Martin Luther King Day

Today there are ceremonies all across the country to remember Dr. Martin Luther King. President Obama spent the day volunteering at a Boys and Girls club, the stars of the recent film Selma gathered to march in Alabama, and countless cities and towns held events to commemorate the civil rights leader. Near where I grew up, the town of Seaside put on a march and ceremony in honor of Dr. King. Walking into the community center where it took place, I was met with a bustling crowd, and quickly found a place to stand on along the wall.

The tone of the event was a mix of somberness and fire. There seemed to be a general feeling that this year’s commemoration was different. In light of the recent killings of unarmed black men, there was a palpable feeling of lament, frustration, and urgency.

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Monterey Peninsula residents gather at the Oldemeyer Center in Seaside, California, to commemorate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Beginning with a series of remarks by local elected officials – the Mayor of Seaside, U.S. House Representative Sam Farr, State Senator Bill Monning, and others – it was the local chairman of the NAACP, Joe Watson, who set the tone that all was certainly not right. He told the story of a local African American man who had earned his law degree but had repeatedly been denied a sergeant’s rank at the local police academy. He described the experience of another African American man who lived in the affluent town of Carmel, and how he had to repeatedly explain to police officers who would pull him over that this was his home. “We’re tired of being tired. I wouldn’t be doing my job as NAACP president if I didn’t tell you about this,” he explained.

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Sabria Henry-Hunter reciting an original poem to the audience.

Following him was Sabria Henry-Hunter, a thirteen-year-old African American girl who delivered a spellbinding poem, crafted around the now famous Eric Garner words, “I can’t breathe.” She spoke it completely from memory, describing the suffocating feeling of the injustice she sees on an all-too regular basis. The crowd leapt to their feet when she was done, electrified by the articulate and powerful address by one so young. You can listen to the poem here.

The event was keynoted by the Rev. Dr. Bobby Joe Saucer. Dr. Saucer, again, hardly minced words – “The moral mountain-top of Martin Luther King today has become a chasm,” he announced gravely. “We need to get mad about doing the right thing.” He urged everyone to commit themselves to introspection and to appreciate that however large the problem of injustice may seem, there is always something for everyone to do.

No doubt 2014, with the series of high profile police killings, grand jury proceedings and ensuing protests, and riots have left many wondering what should to be done, or whether there are policies that can be adopted to promote equal justice. Civinomics has featured several initiatives towards this end over the past several months. Click the links below to cast your vote on and weigh in on the debate, and feel free to engage your friends around these issues or suggest a new one.

 

Wearable Cameras For Law Enforcement

A yes vote on this initiative means you support the policy of having police officers wear cameras while on duty.

 

Grand Jury Reform: Appoint Independent Prosecutors For Police Cases

The recent no-indictment decisions in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have led many to call for reforms to the grand jury system.

 

Police Retraining Courses to Teach De-escalation Techniques

After the no-indictment decision in the Eric Garner case, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a department-wide retraining of the city’s police force.

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