April 4th marks 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the iconic civil rights leader. King sought equality for African Americans. His eldest son, Martin Luther King III, recently spoke to NHK World about the progress America has made since then.
“I have a dream that my 4 little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech in 1963.
He was assassinated by a gunman in Memphis, Tennessee, 5 years later. One of the “4 little children” is Martin Luther King III. “I was a child at 10 years old when my father was killed and how my life was interrupted, my life and the life of my siblings…But then I also have to reflect on some of the positive movements that we see in this country, although some would say we are quite divided. And what I mean by that is, I think there’s been a positive resurgence of social activism, starting most recently with Black Lives matter,” he says.
The Black Lives matter movement began in Florida after the acquittal of a man who shot and killed 17-year-old African-American student Trayvon Martin and a series of protests followed across the nation against the deaths of numerous African Americans by police action.
“I think that because of technology, they can now be captured on a smartphone, and then immediately, people can see the injustice,” King says. He has been a leader of a civil rights organization his father founded. He says that what his father called “social evils” are still there to be defeated. “The evil of poverty, the evil of racism, and the evil of militarism and violence. There have been some strides made in those areas but certainly nowhere near enough. I believe that’s part of the mission I have, to work to eradicate these triple evils, which I believe will create a better society,” he says.
One source of hope for King is the activism of high school students urging for tougher gun control after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “It is the most powerful thing that I’ve seen in a very long time,” he says.
Among those who took to the podium during the March 24th protest in Washington DC was Yolanda King, the 9-year-old grandchild of Dr. King. “I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period,” she said.
“I think my father would definitely be proud and excited about what young people are doing. I don’t think these kids are going to quit just because these Congress people won’t pass legislation. They are going to continue to articulate and raise the issue,” says King.
Half a century after the assassination, King is constantly reminded of the lessons from his father. “Freedom doesn’t just come, and you have to continue to fight in a non-violent way to earn your freedom,” he says.