On December 31, 2016, I attended a watch night church service where Rev. Dr. William Barber led the service. During the service, I heard a rousing account from singer, activist and song writer Joan Baez about an event with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It bears relevance for today. Baez tells a story from when she was traveling with Dr. King and he fell asleep, making him very late for a speech. The other ministers and activists could not wake him. They asked Joan Baez to go in into the bedroom and sing a song to Dr. King. As Baez finished her song, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, Dr. King raised his voice and said, “Joan, sing another one”. Today we need to waken the inner voice of Dr. King to fight the battles that lay ahead of us with the new Trump Administration.
As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. King on his holiday and birthday, we are reminded, as King once wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And we see that even before Donald Trump’s inauguration, there are many new injustices facing the nation and affecting the world. There are battles once fought that we must now fight again. As we see a new era with justice being dismantled for immigrants, women, people of color, LGBTQ community, civil rights and civil liberties being taken away, the Voting Rights Act being diminished, health care rights being challenged, religious freedoms at risk, sexism, racism and xenophobia on the rise, we must channel our collective inner Dr. King to rise from a sleeping bed.
It is not enough to quote Dr. King’s speeches on his birthday and watch his clips on TV, one day of the year. Those of us who demand justice must now all rise to the occasion and continue the fight that Dr. King started. And we must fight not on one day but every day. With the Republicans holding the three branches of government, House, Senate and Executive with the ability to forge a new Supreme Court era, the battle will not be easy. As President Obama said in his farewell speech, change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.
And we must think beyond the norm, for the times coming ahead are anything but normal. Rep. John Lewis, (D. GA.) the only remaining living person who spoke on the stage with Dr. King at the 1963 March on Washington, does not believe that Trump is a “legitimate president” as the Russians illegally engaged in the electoral process of this country. Despite Donald Trump’s assertions that John Lewis is all talk, John Lewis’ record speaks for itself. And the intelligence data obtained by our various intelligence agencies express a real threat to our Democracy due to Russian hacking affecting the legitimacy of our incoming President.
As we go forth to remember Dr. King, we must now more than ever, be reminded that history repeats itself, if we allow it. Everyone who respects and loves Democracy and justice must wake up from their slumber and stay woke.
Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor who appears on CBS, MSNBC, PBS, Al Jazeera, Fox 5 DC, BET, among others. Her op-ed articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post and Baltimore Afro.