Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Better Understanding of a True American Hero

Memorial of Martin Luther King in Washington DC | Photo by Wilson Rodriguez

Lowell Perry Jr., Chief Diversity Officer, Vice President Corporate & Community Engagement |
February 1, 2023

As you know, February is Black History Month. Black history is American history. The contributions of African Americans to the story of this country are immeasurable. This includes literally building Washington D.C., as well as our national economy, as forced and enslaved labor. Many citizens are not aware of much of these contributions because these parts of American history have regrettably, not been taught in our schools. It is also unfortunate that this omission was not an accident.  If you are indeed a student of history, make a concerted effort to learn more about the important role of Black people in the American story. 

One good place to start if you want to raise your history IQ is the work of a true American hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, please do not rush to join the chorus of hypocrites who love to quote Dr. King around his birthday, and this month, using out of context selective snippets from the iconic I Have a Dream speech.   I use the word hypocrite given many will utter words from the speech, but then turn around and support public policy that is the antithesis of the message and the man.  That speech was a call for freedom and equality, a quest that is still a work in progress.  

If you really want a peek into history, and into the mind and mission of this man of God, then you owe it to yourself to read the Letter from Birmingham Jail.  This eloquent missive is regarded by some as a revelation and a chronicle of the struggle of African Americans, then and now, as protagonists in the American story. Dr. King’s prophetic words ring just as loudly, if not more so today. It may well be one of the best examples of what he stood for, his skill as a writer, and why he is an esteemed American hero. Follow this link to experience riveting historic prose from a King: https://www.csuchico.edu/iege/_assets/documents/susi-letter-from-birmingham-jail.pdf

Lowell Perry Jr. at MLK Memorial Dedication – Washington D.C.

He and I also share something in common besides being juniors, and a passion for fighting injustice. We are members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The first Black Greek Letter organization. I mention this not just as a shout-out to my good brothers everywhere, but rather, I am still awed by the experience of being present for the dedication of his memorial in Washington DC. My dear fraternity led the effort to make this momentous dream a reality.

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission is deeply committed to a corporate and community culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, leading to true equal opportunity for all. We work collectively with our stakeholders to protect and promote diverse people, places, and experiences that help tell all of America’s stories equitably and inclusively.

We define diversity as the meaningful participation of myriad groups in cultural and economic development driven by our efforts, including but not limited to race, age, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability, ethnicity, perspective, and geography.

We define equity as the development of policies and practices that help all communities gain access to the resources, opportunities, and networks required to reach their maximum potential.

We define inclusion as the authentic engagement of diverse groups in real personal and professional development, leading to an enhanced sense of belonging.

When added together, we believe that D + E + I = O.  Opportunity. I submit to you that this basic human equation was a central message of Dr. King’s journey while on this earth. In today’s world, it is more relevant than ever, as we see far too many in authority seeking to actively undermine it on a daily basis. What are you going to tell your children and grandchildren that you did to personally combat such madness and help ensure that the phrase in our Pledge of Allegiance – “liberty and justice for all” is not just an empty promise?

Your move my friends.

Happy Black History Month.