Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Photos by David Bacon

Facing four years of struggle with a government that represents the 1%, enamored of war and racial oppression, the thoughts of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak to us down through the years.  Marching in San Francisco to remember his birthday, people celebrated his spirit of struggle.  Thanks to Michael Honey for collecting these words and others of Dr. King in "All Labor Has Dignity."  Thanks also to Baba Jahahara Amen-Ra Alkebulan-Ma'at for embodying the spirit of this march.

And I have come to see that it must be a massive movement organizing poor people in this country, to demand their rights at the seat of government in Washington DC.

Now, I said poor people, too, and by that I mean all poor people.  When we go to Washington, we're going to have black people because black people are poor, but we're going to also have Puerto Ricans because Puerto Ricans are poor in the United States of America.  We're going to have Mexican Americans because they are mistreated.  We're going to have Indian Americans because they are mistreated.  And for those who will not allow their prejudice to cause them to blindly support their oppressors, we're going to have Appalachian whites with us in Washington.

We're going there to engage in powerful nonviolent direct action to demand, to bring into being an attention=getting dramatic movement, which will make it impossible for the nation to overlook these demands.  Now, they may not do anything about it.  People ask me, "Suppose you go to Washington and you don't get anything?"  You ask people and you mobilize and you organize, and you don't get anything.  You've been an absolute failure.  My only answer is that when you stand up for justice, you can never fail.

The forces that have the power to make a concession to the forces of justice and truth and right, but who refuse to do it and they follow the path of darkness still, are the forces that fail.  We, as poor people, going to struggle for justice, can't fail.  And if there is no response from the federal government, from the Congress, that's the failure, not those who are struggling for justice.

March 10, 1968, explaining the purpose of the Poor People's March to the members of Local 1199

With all our problems we are optimistic.  We are presiding over a dying order, one which has long deserved to die.  We operate in stormy seas, but I often remember some beautiful words of Eugene Debs to the court which imprisoned him for his pacifism:

"I can see the dawn of a better humanity.  The people are awakening.  In due course of time they will come into their own."

October 23, 1962, speaking to members of the National Maritime Union

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