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What MLK meant by justice. And how one central Pa. community is commemorating it | Opinion

London, UK – January 15, 2012: USA postage stamp of 1999 showing an image of Martin Luther King with his famous quotation of 'I have a dream'

by Capital-Star Guest Contributor, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
January 13, 2022

By Charles D. Allen

Americans have faced two years of turbulence on the domestic front with the seemingly unending COVID-19 pandemic, recurring protests across the political spectrum, and court cases to address constitutional challenges. With hopeful optimism, we are looking forward to a new year.

As we enter 2022, Americans should reflect on the vision conveyed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech given Aug. 28, 1963, during the March on Washington.

More importantly, we should assess whether that vision remains relevant and still desirable. If so, then what are we doing to bring it to fruition?

King’s road to Washington began with protests during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955-56. That journey eventually led to his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” after being arrested in April 1963 for parading without a permit.

He had done so in direct challenge to existing state laws used to “preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest.”

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In a denial of equal justice under the law, in 1967 the US Supreme Court ruled against civil rights activists and upheld the convictions of Dr. King and seven other black ministers for their parade protest:

“This Court cannot hold that the petitioners were constitutionally free to ignore all the procedures of the law and carry their battle to the streets. One may sympathize with the petitioners’ impatient commitment to their cause. But respect for judicial process is a small price to pay for the civilizing hand of law, which alone can give abiding meaning to constitutional freedom.”

How might we interpret this ruling that denied equal justice in 1967 in light of the demonstrations and protests of 2021?

As we begin a new year, our Carlisle community continues America’s quest to embrace Dr. King’s commitment to social, economic, and political justice.

This year, our community celebrates its 33rd annual commemoration of his birthday. On Sunday, Jan. 16 at 4 p.m., we will conduct an ecumenical service hosted by The Meeting House Church. For those who cannot meet together physically, we will celebrate together remotely through the broadcast of the service of praise in word and song.

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Over the course of the coming weeks, you will see notices of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Commemoration with the theme, Remember! Celebrate! Act! Pursuing the Dream: Working Together for Unity, Justice and Love. Carlisle community members and organizations will have the opportunity to demonstrate support for ideals rooted in American values.

Students of the Carlisle Area School District have worked diligently on projects to illustrate their interpretation of this year’s theme. Their thoughtful and creative works will be showcased during the commemoration event and available for future viewing.

Dr. King had faith in the future because of the youth who believed in the ideals of America as the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He encouraged young and old to have faith in the face of trials and uncertainty. In King’s words, “Now let me say finally that we have difficulties ahead but I haven’t despaired. Somehow I maintain hope in spite of hope… And so I refuse to despair. I think we’re gonna achieve our freedom because however much America strays away from the ideals of justice, the goal of America is freedom.”

Our commemoration committee invites you to be part of this celebration as we seek to unite our Carlisle Community in truth and love right here and right now.

Opinion contributor Col. Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, ret’d) is a professor of Leadership and Cultural Studies in the School of Strategic Land Power at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This story also appeared in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.