MLK Day: How close are we to the Mountaintop?

Montreal first in Canada to formally recognize King’s contribution to society. King’s contribution to society.

Come January 20, the third Monday of the month, Martin Luther King Day will be celebrated in both Canada and America.
Every year, along with our American neighbours, we go through the ritual of honoring the clergyman, secular civil rights leader and martyr. Along with the celebration come frequent recitations of his stirring “I Have A Dream” speech delivered at the Lincoln memorial on August 28, 1963, during the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and his final speech “I have Been to the Mountaintop,” delivered on April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. The following day King was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Before the executioner’s bullet cut through the Memphis air and claimed his life on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was leading the modern civil rights movement, opposing war and championing forgiveness. In the weeks prior to his death, MLK said that he would like to be known as a drum major for peace and justice. He fervently strove to ensure that America lived up to the poetic promise outlined in her Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
The work undertaken by Dr. King had major influences for the defense of minority rights not only in the U.S., but also in Canada and around the world. Even Montreal’s Mayor Valérie Plante praised King’s “contribution to the pursuit of an egalitarian society that is free of racial discrimination….”
On September 8, 2019, a celebration was held in Cote-des-Neiges as the borough unveiled the new Martin Luther King Park, formerly called Kent Park.
In a French news release, Mayor Valerie Plante said, “Montreal will become one of the first Canadian cities to formally recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s contributions to the equality of a society that is free from racial discrimination,” said Mayor Plante.,42657625&_dad=portal&_schema.
It is obvious that we have become more interested in idolizing Dr. King than applying the principles for which he died to contemporary Canadian life. We have a knack for celebrating the hero’s past deeds instead of examining how they apply, or might apply, to us. I believe that the Black community has become very celebratory when it comes to Civil Rights. It is almost as if we are saying if we have a park named in his honour and we acknowledge his birthday, then clearly we have eliminated racial bias. I personally think that is part of the reason why so much work still needs to be done. Instead of his birthday symbolizing some great success, we should see in his birthday a great challenge.
The truth be told, there appears to be no accountability in ensuring that the dreams of MLK do not morph into screams or nightmares. In a newspaper article on October 7, 2019 the Mayor of Montreal, who spearheaded the park change and formerly avowed her recognition of the struggle for equality faced by MLK, openly stated her shock and awe that organizational bias and racism existed within the Montreal Police Force.
According to Dr. King, “Shallow understanding by people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding by people of ill will.” Additionally, the mayor heads a city council much less diverse than the city it serves at the pleasure of — a council that is 90% white, serving a city where 40% are not.
Into clearer focus comes the fact that she campaigned on a promise to make her administration representative of Montreal’s diversity. After the election, she was criticized for naming an executive committee that had no visible minorities.
Displayed disappointment at a roundtable on systemic racism held by the Plante Administration motivated Balarama Holness, a former Projet Montreal candidate, and aspiring lawyer to spearhead a petition that amassed 20,000 signatures—serving to further compel the public consultation office to hold new hearings on racism.
Holness further recommended ways in which the Mayoral administration could help break down barriers between white and non-white Montrealers, through extension of afterschool extracurricular programs and ensuring that boroughs with a larger population of colour, are the recipients of equal funding to the city’s whiter boroughs.
Dr. King still walked among us, (old though he may be) what progress would he see? Would he be surprised that his dreams had not been realized?
Would he need to preach or teach in order for us his message to reach?
On the issue of civil rights, Dr. King singlehandedly moved the needle on the civil rights movement. Has the needle moved further on, or has it been forgotten now that he is gone?
Of one thing I am certain that were he alive today, he would see the imprint of his life’s work all around him, for every time that we protest or complain regarding social justice, we are calling on the civil rights movement. However, I think that he might also be somewhat frustrated by people who think that racism and discrimination have ended.
As regards the park, his message today I am sure would be something like: In my name a symbol of leisure is truly a pleasure, but we still have far to go, and must never stop until we reach the mountaintop.
Forget about singing my praises. By being on the frontlines of social change, you would be honoring me for all to see.