Fact Friday #31 - When MLK Came to Charlotte


Happy Friday!

In Fact Friday #17 – Charlotte in the Civil Rights Era, we highlighted Frederick D. Alexander, a local civil rights hero whose social impact approach was strikingly similar to that of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. : use the existing systems to affect long-term changes that benefits all.

The legacy of Dr. King lives on each of us that believe that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny, [where] whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We know that this spirit is strong in our 704 community because we see numerous acts of kindness and people set out to make a positive impact every single day.

Did you know that Charlotte has a bronze MLK statue in Marshall Park that was designed in 1980 by sculptor Selma Burke, who created the Franklin D. Roosevelt image on today’s dime? Selma, who surprisingly has the same namesake of the city in Alabama where King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators on an historic 5-day, 54-mile march to the steps of the capital in Montgomery in 1965 in the name of voting rights, was actually from Mooreseville (go 704!).

One day before my birthday, but 20 years prior, on September 25, 1960, approximately 7 ½ years before he was assassinated (April 4, 1968), King gave an address at the Annual Freedom Mass Meeting of the North Carolina State Conference of Branches of the NAACP right here in Charlotte at the Park Center (now the Grady Cole Center), where he spoke on the topic “The Negro and the American Dream.” There was a crowd of nearly 3,000 in attendance.

In his address, King shared his dream of a nation “where men of all races, colors, and creeds will live together as brothers” but warned that American racism had put the country’s international standing at its lowest ebb. My favorite part of the address is where King states, “The hour is late: the clock of destiny is ticking out. We must act now! It is a trite yet urgently true observation that if America is to remain a first-class nation it cannot have second-class citizens.” How true and relevant those words remain today as the nation continues to grapple with issues ranging from police brutality and equal pay to religious freedom/discrimination and immigration.

So how will you celebrate Dr. King’s legacy this weekend? Maybe volunteer on our National Day of Giving (Monday, January 18)? Check out this post for some ideas from Fun4CharlotteKids.com. Creative Loafing usually does a more comprehensive post, but as of this writing, it hasn’t been published yet. Here’s the one from last year to give you a sense of it. Also note the Levine Museum of the New South will have free admission on 1/17 and 1/18 for their annual community celebration honoring the pursuit of civil rights through film, performances, children’s crafts and exhibits! Presented by Bank of America. The same will apply at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture on 1/18.

The City’s MLK Holiday Parade will be held on Saturday, January 16, starting at 10:30am at 11th and N. Tryon. Find all the details on the parade here from Charlotte Vibe, including links to volunteer and find out more about this historic figure. The MLK Paper’s Project at Stanford University is impressive! I also happened to find that Stanford has another online resource, an entire online encyclopedia entitled “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle.” It is massive, with links to documents, chronology, associated figures, quotes, and much, much more.

Additional weekend volunteer opportunities can be found via Hands On Charlotte.

Until next week!

Chris.

Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass