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Clutch commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day by sharing what the legendary civil rights activist meant to us on a personal level.

Kimberly Wilson
Martin Luther King Jr … a man of pride, humility, strength and determination. Not only his actions, but yet his words spawned a generation of Barack Obama’s, Oprah’s, Tyler Perry’s and so many visionary leaders of our time.

What does Martin Luther King Jr mean to me? His memory leaves with me a feeling of hope – that our struggle is not yet over. His memory is what keeps ‘our’ people – a proud set of people – dedicated to the dream of such a great man. And although we may feel like we have made great strides, our job is not over. The earthquake in Haiti is a devastating example of how our people need to come together – to unite in order to help one another. We are all we have.

In the words of Dr. King, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” We must have faith in ourselves, faith in God, and faith in our race to have inner peace and strength to continue our journey. That is what MLK’s legacy has taught me.

Constance Rogers
I do not believe I was ever truly free until I knew who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was. I was imprisoned by the thoughts of others I was even sometimes ashamed to be who I was because of the belittlement I suffered, falling victim to a reality that was created for my demise rather than my success. Studying MLK and discovering an old hope renewed enabled me to break free from my mental iniquities, stand strong in the mist of injustice, to have undying hope when all odds seem to pose against me but more importantly… MLK means to never stop believing for belief is the foundation to unbreakable faith. Life unbound. That is what MLK means to me.

Sylvia Arthur
When I was growing up, somewhere between the ages of six and eight, I discovered Martin Luther King and he became pivotal in shaping my thinking. Although it was the early eighties and Dr King had been dead for over fifteen years, he was as relevant then as he is now.

I read Martin Luther King like others would read the Word. God spoke to me through him. When my own father died at the age of nine, MLK’s wisdom and morality would prove invaluable in helping me navigate the undulations of life. He enabled me to affirm my identity and my relationship with God and was an important male guide. With the passage of time, as the memory of my father’s physical image began to fade, I’d imagine Dr King as my dad whenever I had a problem – talking to me, advising me, nurturing me. King instilled in me a sense of purpose and social justice at a time when I was starting to form my perspective on the world.

Recently, I’ve been rediscovering my inner rage. I’ve been reading the brilliant, Not On My Watch by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast on the genocide in Darfur. The book is a call to action imploring each one of us to do whatever we can to highlight and agitate for an end to injustice. People in Sudan, the Congo and Haiti, among others, need our help today and there’s no excuse why we shouldn’t give it.

If Dr King were alive today, he’d be advocating for our brothers and sisters at home and abroad. In my own small way, I will too. In hindsight, for me, it all began with Martin Luther King and, for that, I’ll be eternally grateful. In me, and many others, the spirit of Dr King lives on.

Aaron Richard-Alan Turner
Martin Luther King was a man of integrity, and that’s the word that comes to mind every time I hear or think about Martin Luther King. He was a preacher who did his best to live up to the expectations of not just talking about it, but actually walking it. In today’s world allot of people talk about doing things but never take action, or just do the total opposite of what they say. Martin Luther King’s idea of peace and non violence was a major factor in his success with the Civil Rights movement as well. He did whatever he could to help the Civil Rights movement but never used violence even when arrested. Dr. King stuck to his core values. During his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the nation’s capitol, he said one of my favorite quote’s by him.

Free at last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

I think not just only the African American community, not just one community of people at all, but the world has to get back to the idea of freedom. Don’t let anybody of anything into your life that keeps you from being free. Remove all things from your life that keep you from being free. That’s what Martin Luther King means to me.

Rashana Hooks
Growing up my mom kept a framed photo of Martin Luther King and his famous “I have a dream” speech on our living wall so every day when we entered and exited our home my sister and I would be encouraged and reminded that our dreams can become our realities. Seeing his hopeful face and reading his inspiring words daily reinforced my confidence that I can be and do anything I put my mind too. I believed that those little boys and girls Martin referred to included me and I was going to make it my priority to see his dream to fruition.

Today I am proud to say that I have made a contribution to Dr. Martin Luther King‘s dream. I have not only followed my dreams and succeeded; I have witnessed and contributed to the election of America’s first African-American president – Barack Obama. This MLK day, I’m not only living his dream, I’ve become it.

Ahmad Wright
To me Martin Luther King Jr. represents the unstoppable force of the human spirit. He reminds me of what I am capable of should I ever free myself from the trappings of vanity, and consumerism. I have never experienced segregation or overt racism to the tune of King’s aggressors. His likeness, seen often by way of austere black and white audiovisuals (Eyes-on-the-Prize we love you!), allows me to recall what integrity and selflessness could look like in the face of adversity, and in the quest for courage and truth.

For example, if King were alive he would nix his own holiday, spill it like hot grease. He would consider his three day weekend of remembrance between New Years Eve and Valentine’s Day well-meaning, but pretentious. Such a waste of intention. Better to serve his legacy by helping those less fortunate. Trying alternative energy around the world, or a collective cease fire everywhere. From the heated plains of African warring factions, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the Middle East; to reparations and aid to Haiti.

Not to mention if King were alive today one could cross the following items off the list: No celebrations or paintings in his likeness; no stylized, mass produced, bootlegged t-shirts bearing his initials or catchy group songs by Grammy award winning artists. Skim the layers of black leaders who would claim his mantel in vain, and expose a white America who invoke his name to justify where it continues to fall short.

Zettler Clay
Growing up, it was the cliche thing to mention Martin Luther King Jr. as an influence. So for a while I embraced other figures. King was effective, I used to say, but his approach was too passive for me. Yea, that speech in Washington was great, but [any inane reason to hate]. I would side with Malcolm X in those primitive, dualistic “X vs. King” arguments, because Malcolm stuck it to the man. But within the past few years, as I learned more about who King was, what he did for the “little people,” how layered he was, I came to realize that he was truly a special individual. I am constantly coming across little-known facts about his life that adds to his mystique. Him, X and many other black leaders had a coalition in the works, and it’s scary and tragic to think about what they could have accomplished. It’s my hope that the world not succumb to the caricatured image of King and embrace him for what he truly was: a complex radical who was too much for America to handle, and a man who despite flaws of his own, was man enough to lay his life down for a righteous cause. In this day and age that’s not just commendable. That’s a miracle.

Clutchettes and Gents – please feel free to share what Martin Luther King Jr. means to you…

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