The True Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Updated: Jun 23
Our new mural campaign intends to uplift MLK’s radicalism
**This blog post was inspired and informed by the reporting of Fabiola Cineas in an article they wrote for Vox titled "Don't ask what Martin Luther King Jr. would do today and then ignore his real message": https://www.vox.com/2021/1/18/22233296/martin-luther-king-jr-whitewashed-legacy-and-message.
CT Murals is thrilled to announce the recent launch of our 39 MLK Mural Tour Series!
Our goal is to partner with 39 communities across Connecticut to create 39 MLK-themed murals by January 2022. Each mural will be inspired by MLK’s vision and teachings. They will be painted by local artists and will include community input. We’ve already begun the mural process with a handful of on-the-ground groups in CT!
Our hope for this mural campaign is to remind viewers of MLK’s message and legacy. On that note, the team at CT Murals feels it’s important to call attention to how this legacy has been misrepresented and misunderstood over the years.
In the popular watered down version of MLK, he is depicted as a pacifist who thought love could conquer all. Yes, MLK dreamed of a peaceful and united country and yes, for most of his career as a Civil Rights leader he believed in nonviolence as the pathway to getting there. But he also knew that we had (and still have) a lot of work to do to create a society that truly lives up to the value of equality, and that the only way to dismantle systemic racism is to engage in constant direct action. His views of nonviolence also became more radicalised over time. This was a man who said “If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace.”
MLK is also misconceived to be a proponent of the colorblind approach to change, because he dreamed of a world in which we judge others not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But this dream did not mean that he didn’t see race, and he certainly didn’t stay silent about the ills of racism. For example, he demanded accountability from all white folks, including white moderates who undermined his tactics. His unfailing commitment to speaking truth to white supremacist violence (and, towards the end of his life, the injustices of capitalism and imperialism) meant that the majority of Americans rejected him and his message. In fact, at the time of his public assassination in 1968, MLK was actually considered an enemy of the state and he had begun to doubt his previous faith in the white community to uproot their own racism.
When we see images of MLK, we often think about his moral aspirations of unity and love. This moral vision remains absolutely necessary in these divided times because it fosters a sense of hope and offers a blueprint for the future. But we can’t forget about MLK’s radicalism, either. As we take Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 's message of love, equity and justice across the state, let’s not forget his true legacy; a fierce love for those on the margins and a refusal to stay quiet in the face of injustice.
Call to Community Leaders: Would you like to see images of MLK and/or other historical and contemporary Black leaders and organizers on a public wall in your community? Apply today!
Call to Artists: Are you a CT mural artist that is inspired by the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? Sign up as an artist for the 39 MLK Mural Tour Series. We will be prioritizing applications from BIPOC artists!
Joy Meikle is the new Content Creator at CT Murals. She is passionate about social-emotional wellness, racial justice, and Tarot. Find her on IG at @alegria_moon and follow @ctmurals while you're at it!