by Dr. James Ewers
The parades, breakfasts and luncheons honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are now over. The speeches given by city, state and federal officials extolling Dr. King’s non-violent philosophy have all been given.
All of us participated in some type of community service event that highlighted his mantra of helping each other. King always reminded us that we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper.
As we now pass the King Holiday and onto February, which is Black History Month, let us rededicate ourselves to some guiding principles. It is my opinion these guiding principles that Dr. King talked about throughout his life will serve as a launching pad of hope for us.
First, let us understand and appreciate the importance of getting a good education. King was a man of letters, which prepared him for a life of service.
It is my view that every young person must participate in some form of education and training after high school. There are three options for a high school graduate to consider. You must have college, military service or a job with training on your radar screen.
If you choose one of these three options, you will be well on your way to becoming successful. Each of these options will provide you with the opportunity and the flexibility to become a productive citizen in the world. If you are undecided, talk to your counselor, mentor or friend about the choices. The most important part of this equation is that you choose one of the options.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed for us. It gives all of us the chance to elect the leaders of our country. The voting numbers in communities of color are not where they should be. If we want to see change in America then we must help to change America by voting. We cannot sit at home on Election Day and expect change to occur. Our votes will count if we exercise our right to vote.
In the coming months, we will have a presidential election and we will have a choice to make. If you don’t vote then you cannot complain about the outcome. If you have not registered to vote then go and register today. Take a friend with you so that they, too, can register.
Civil rights leaders such as King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Flonzie Brown-Wright, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson and countless others worked tirelessly to get us the right so now we must not sit on the right but must act on the right to cast our ballot. If you are in a position to organize a voter registration drive then do so. You will become a difference-maker in your community.
We have a moral mandate to treat one another better. The words dignity and respect should be the rule in how we treat one another not the exception.
King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.”
As Black people, we must pledge in 2016 to stop the violence against ourselves. We must become statistics of success, not statistics of sorrow. If you are a Black man like me, our households need us. We have been absent and missing in action for too long.
Let us vow in 2016 to be fathers and grandfathers to our children and grandchildren. They cannot have model behavior if they have no role models to emulate.
If we want our communities to be better, then we must become better. Higher levels of self-respect will get us the respect from others that we want. Our avenues and streets can no longer be battlegrounds with us being afraid to come outside.
Are we ready for 2016? Yes we are! It will take all of us doing our part and becoming transformational leaders. Some time ago, I read the book titled The Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. The subtitle is Transforming Your Heart, Head, Hands and Habits.
The authors write about Jesus Christ being a situational servant leader. He was the ultimate servant leader. Let us practice the habits of serving others, having humility and just being kind. These traits will help us in any situation.
The year 2015 is in our rearview mirror and we are eagerly watching 2016 unfold.
King said, “This is no time for apathy and complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”