Where Do We Go From Here?
On the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday I am remembering his last few years; his increased emphasis on poverty as well as, a laser focus on economic issues for all Americans.
A Gallup poll in 1963 suggested only 32% of those polled gave King a favorable rating while 63% viewed him less than favorable (Politico, 2017). His second phase of the Civil Rights movement with a focus on economic justice in the realms of “every person…[having]…adequate food, education, housing, a decent job, and income” (The Guardian, 2018) was viewed as controversial from inside and outside the movement.
Fast forward to 2019 in California with a new Governor in town.
With the spirit of the Dr. King’s legacy and the vision to continue empowering Southern California’s African American community, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Labor Leader Laphonza Butler formed a transition team of ambassadors including an influential group of elected and appointed officials, clergy, business leaders, philanthropic leaders, educators, labor leaders, and more. This group of ambassadors will present policy priorities to the Governor unique to the SoCal African American community including ending child poverty, reinstating redevelopment, ending homelessness and protecting ObamaCare (Sentinel, 2018).
It is interesting to think that we are advocating for a similar struggle that Dr. King highlighted in his 1963 speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. King professes, “One hundred years…[after slavery]…the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, in 2018 46% of California’s children were poor or near poor. In 2015, CA held the highest rate of unsheltered people (64%) (CA Senate FAct Sheet, 2015). As of 2017, approximately 3 million Californians were uninsured (CA Healthcare Foundation, 2017). Lastly, we are in a housing crisis and in need of over 3 million new homes to stay in demand of California’s growing population (Politico, 2018).
Where do we go from here?
We continue to fight for economic justice. Like King, we require “a land where men will not take necessities to give luxuries to a few.” Everyone deserves to have their beyond basic needs met with quality healthcare, a decent place to reside, and a job that pays above minimum wage and meets basic needs.
I look forward to the work of the transition team ambassadors and their commitment to push policy priorities for the betterment of the African American community.