We celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a fierce civil rights and anti-poverty advocate whose vision, mission, and work directly led to the foundation of Community Action and this very organization, Fresno EOC.
An advocate of action
Although now recognized as one of the most influential and prominent people in the history of the United States, Dr. King was widely hated, scorned, and ridiculed while alive. He understood how poverty and racism were inherently connected and you could not solve one problem without addressing the other. He was an advocate of action who believed that the most significant stumbling block to true equity were people who were “more devoted to order than justice, who prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace with is the presence of justice.” A man who knew, “…direct action seeks to establish such a creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issues…we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability.”
We celebrate this anti-poverty champion who believed that the soul of America would be defined by how it addresses or doesn’t address the poverty crisis. In his 1961 “American Dream” speech, he said, “As long as there is poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.” In his Nobel Peace Prize address three years later, he said, “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”
Dr. King’s declaration of us having the resources to eliminate poverty is even more true now, 60 years later. So, the question, then, is not can we eliminate poverty – the question is, will we? Will we recommit ourselves to intentional, direct action that eliminates what Dr. King called two of the three evils of society – racism and poverty?
We often remember this great man’s dream of a society where color did not define a person’s ability to live freely. However, we must also remember the American dream before Dr. King. One that did not create justice and equity for all of its people, a nightmare. He addressed this when he said, “If America does not respond creatively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say, that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all men.” Living a life free from poverty is part of that justice.
Eradicating poverty is in our charge. As a Community Action Agency, our foundation is built on the value that this nation has the capacity and moral obligation to ensure that no one is forced to endure the hardships of poverty. Our mission to “fight to end poverty” is in conjunction with the Community Action Partnership’s mission, which is “to ensure the causes and conditions of poverty are effectively addressed.”
“The time has come for America to face the inevitable choice between materialism and humanism. We must devote at least as much to our children’s education and the health of the poor as we do to the care of our automobiles and the building of beautiful impressive hotels. We must also realize that the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.” – Martin Luther King, 1963
While the fight to eradicate poverty continues, we celebrate Dr. King, daily, in the work we do. With the weekend events surrounding his legacy, we invite you to take part in remembering his work and continuing advocacy everywhere, lifting up voices of the historically unheard, and challenging systems of oppression. There is still so much to do.