If you don’t get my weekly activism newsletter, why not subscribe now? I’ve been writing this newsletter since 2017 and I have expanded it from NYC-only to include national options. If you want to make your world a better place but don’t know where to start, I’ve got answers for you, no matter what your time/physical/financial resources are. Normally I send one email a week on behalf of Indivisible Activate NYC, but I had so much to say for Martin Luther King Day today that it got its own separate newsletter. I’m sharing it here because the recommended reading/viewing/Resistbot-ing is something you can do anytime.
ACTIONS FOR MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY 2023
(1) RECOMMENDED READING/VIEWING – NATIONAL
Do you feel like the world has turned into a place where “machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people”? This is not a condition that can be attributed to a recent development like social media or a particular president, because those words were spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. nearly 56 years ago, in his powerful “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech.
In that April 4, 1967, speech — exactly one year before his assassination — King called for a “radical revolution of values” to take us from a “thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” Without real change, he said, we would remain plagued by “racism, materialism, and militarism.” The same year, in “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?,” his last book, King pointed out that things don’t have to be this way: “There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities …”
If you’re not familiar with how revolutionary King was — or you do know but like to revisit his words for fresh inspiration — here are some recommendations.
- If you’re short on time, spend four minutes watching “The Radical Revolution of Values” part of the speech on YouTube.
- Read and/or listen to the complete, nearly hour-long “A Time to Break Silence” speech.
- Order “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” from Bookshop.org, which supports independent bookstores.
- While you wait for your book to arrive, Goodreads has many compelling quotes from it here, including: “Yet the average white person also has a responsibility. He has to resist the impulse to seize upon the rioter as the exclusive villain. He has to rise up with indignation against his own municipal, state and national governments to demand that the necessary reforms be instituted which alone will protect him. If he reserves his resentment only for the Negro, he will be the victim by allowing those who have the greatest culpability to evade responsibility. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” There are other quotes about white people, including “liberal” white people, that make it clear why this book went out of print for 10 years.
(2) RESISTBOT YOUR SENATOR – NATIONAL
MLK Day is a federal holiday — and that’s no small accomplishment. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced legislation to create a federal holiday just four days after King’s assassination and it took 15 years to pass. It took another 17 years — till the year 2000 — for the holiday to be recognized in all states. So, for a change, we’re glad our electeds aren’t working. But the free Resistbot service never takes a day off, and it will make sure your senators’ offices see today’s emails first thing on Tuesday. Text the word SENATE to 50409 and tell your Democratic senators that we saved their majority, so eliminate the damn filibuster already! For MLK’s explanation of the negative impact of the Senate filibuster, see last year’s newsletter.
- If your senator/s are Republican, they will be violently against eliminating the filibuster, but make the request anyway in order to get your dissatisfaction on the record. Silence is perceived as agreement. Read this article for info on how even some past Republicans thought the gridlock created by the filibuster made Americans lose faith in their government. Of course, MAGA politicians want exactly that: no government, only chaos, so if you prefer to send them some other message, have at it!
(3) CLOSE RIKERS SILENT VIGIL – NYC
WHERE: INSIDE THE TIMES SQUARE SUBWAY STATION
WHEN: 5 PM ET – 6 PM ET
Direct-action group Rise and Resist is collaborating with Freedom Agenda on this silent vigil to make New Yorkers more aware of of the problems at the NYC jail complex on Rikers Island. Nineteen people died on Rikers in 2022. They died from drug overdoses, medical neglect, and suicidal despair. Ninety percent of those locked up on Rikers have not been convicted of a crime. They are being held there, pre-trial, because they can’t afford bail. Sometimes they are held there for years for a nonviolent crime of which they’re never convicted. Disadvantaged Black and brown people are most likely to be victims of a prison industrial complex that is rooted in slavery. Rikers needs to be shut down.
- TO PARTICIPATE IN NYC: You’ll find us on the concourse in the “paid zone” of the station between the Shuttle and the #1, #2, and #3 train platform.As with all in-person actions, if you can’t stay for the entire event, just stay for as long as you can. You can even walk by and take a photo for social media.
- IF YOU”RE IN NYC BUT CAN’T PARTICIPATE IN THE VIGIL: Use this link to send a message about closing Rikers to NYC Mayor Eric Adams.
- NATIONAL OPTIONS:
- Watch this Angela Davis interview about prison abolition and get her still relevant 2003 book, “Are Prisons Obsolete?” from Bookshop.org.
- Read (or re-read) King’s 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail” for his thoughts on the value of direct action, meaning disruptions like sit-ins, protests, strikes, etc, in the fight against racism.
- Look for prison abolition organizers in your area.