As a native of Selma, Alabama, most of you know about my roots in and respect for the Civil Rights Movement and all of the icons – both famous and unsung – who participated in it.
Today’s 32nd celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday has an even more special meaning for our nation, as this year we also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. Though he has been gone for half a century, it is even more important today that we continue to honor his name by fighting to keep his dream of respect, dignity and prosperity for all alive. And at its core, that is what our journey of transforming Atlanta Public Schools is about – treating our students with respect and dignity, and preparing them to lead productive, prosperous lives.
I am back in Selma this weekend to celebrate the legacy of my own father’s life and look forward to returning again in two months to celebrate the legacy of leaders in the Voting Rights Movement. On Saturday, March 24, I will be running in the Inaugural Selma to Montgomery 51-Mile Relay (read more about it here), held to commemorate the historic Voting Rights March of 1965 – organized and led by Dr. King, the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, a transformational journey that was met with great resistance. But Dr. King and countless other heroes and heroines of the Movement persisted, and we must do the same even as our transformational journey encounters its share of obstacles. I am always reminded of what Dr. King once said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
And we all know that Dr. King did not lead the Movement alone. A short list of those who fought with him includes legends like Congressman John Lewis, the Honorable Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rev. C.T. Vivian, as well as late, great leaders such as Rosa Parks, Hosea Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Dorothy Height, Beyard Rustin, Maynard Jackson and the Jackson Family, and of course, the ever-graceful Coretta Scott King.
Likewise, we are not alone in our quest to make APS a consistently high-performing school system, as illustrated by several of our great partners who will be honoring the King Holiday by completing service projects at a number of our schools: State Farm (Brown Middle School); Salesforce (Bunche Middle School); Target (Crim Open Campus); Alston & Bird (Dunbar Elementary School); Slalom (Fickett Elementary School); ADP and Leadership Atlanta (King Middle School); and Newell Brands (M. Agnes Jones Elementary School).
I am deeply humbled by the commitment of Dr. King and countless other freedom fighters who marched and paved the way toward making this a better world filled with limitless opportunities for all of us. We should reflect on that truth today and every day, and honor their efforts, struggles and sacrifices by doing our best to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. I can think of no better way to do that than continuing our transformation of Atlanta Public Schools and brightening the futures of our students by preparing them for college and career, so that they may live fruitful lives of boundless possibilities.
Happy Birthday, Dr. King!
#MLKday #JohnLewisFreedomRunners #Selma