Hashtags, quotes and archival photos and footage honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is expected to flood social media on Monday (Jan. 15), the day of the late civil rights icon’s posthumous 95th birthday.
The federally recognized holiday has been a day of reflection, community gathering and more since 1986. But this year, Bernice King, the youngest of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King’s children, hopes will be the end of her father’s words being used as lofty remnants of a fight for justice.
On January 13, ahead of the commemorative day, she tweeted, “Dear politicians/political influencers: When you evoke my father this [MLK Day], remember that he was resolute about eradicating racism, poverty and militarism. And about corrective justice work. Don’t just quote him. Encourage and enact policies that reflect his teachings.”
In his Jan. 12 proclamation acknowledging the day, President Joe Biden said, “The battle for the soul of our Nation is perennial — a constant struggle between hope and fear, kindness and cruelty, and justice and injustice. There are still those who seek to thwart progress and roll back our rights as Americans. But Dr. King and countless crusaders across the span of American history teach us that each generation must answer the call to perfect our Union.”
Bernice has long been a champion of both her father’s and mother’s legacies, as a couple and as respective individuals. She recently made headlines when she addressed the fanfare surrounding actor Jonathan Majors’ measure of a woman being that of her mother. The Creed III actor caught flak from the Black community when he suggested to his white ex-girlfriend that she conduct herself like Coretta or Michelle Obama.
In his first interview since being convicted of misdemeanor assault and harassment of the woman, he explained that his words were intended to encourage her to understand the type of support he expected as a “great man” doing significant work for his culture.
Majors explained that he was “trying to give an analogy of what it is I’m aspiring to be. You know, these great men, Martin and President Obama, in trying to give a reference point.” He then went on to liken his current girlfriend, actress Meagan Good, to Coretta.
Bernice seemed to respond to the attention his remarks garnered by reminding people that her mother was not a “prop” and that she dutifully worked as an advocate before marrying Dr. King.