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MLK, Modern Visionary: An Illustrated Guide Why Dr. King is Still Relevant Today

This holiday weekend we'll see a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr, but we will hear very little about why he is as relevant today as ever.

Here it comes again. This holiday weekend we'll see a lot of media coverage of Martin Luther King, Jr. But we'll hear very little about what he really was - a brave and visionary leader whose vision is as relevant today as ever. 

One year ago I listed ten quotes by Dr. King, and mourned the lack of a movement that would advance his kind of vision. Then came the uprising in Madison and the Occupy movement, which began a long-overdue national debate about economic, as well as racial inequality.

Once again, Dr. King's insights provide offer insight and vision for today's movement activists - and tomorrow's.

1. "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Where Do We Go From Here? August 1967 speech.


"Bain Capitalism" - aka "vulture capitalism" - didn't happen out of nowhere. It was made by politicians. It should be un-made by politicians. The system is the problem and it needs to change.

A long list of corporations and banks enriched itself by triggering the events that led to the Great Recession, and many of them took Federal bailout money when it happened. Each of them has a Corporate Social Responsibility policy, designed to show they're good citizens who give back to the community. And each of them has a fleet of lobbyists working to protect their privileged status and tax benefits.

Meanwhile the poverty rate, which had been declining, started to rise again in 2000. That year it stood at 11.3%, but by 2009 the Census Bureau reported that it had climbed back to 14.3%. At last count, 46 million Americans lived in poverty, more than 15 percent of the population. More than 16 million of them are children, which means that nearly one in four American kids (22 percent) is living in poverty.

Is that okay with you?

The situation has become so grave that The Nation responded by allocating  an entire page to poverty, which is managed by Greg Kaufman. Sadly, it is now essential reading if we're to understand the real state of our union. As  Kaufman points out, one study suggests that 340,000 children joined the ranks of the impoverished last year.

As the New York Times  reported last September, another 2.6 million people slipped below the official poverty line in 2010. The official total of impoverished Americans was the highest it's been in the 52 years that it has been reported. For white Americans, the figure was 9.9 percent. The poverty rate for African Americans surged to 27.4 percent. For Hispanics the figure was 26.6 percent. For African American children the figure was 39 percent.

Is that okay with you?

(photo by Jeff Schrier, Saginaw News)

2. "We must develop a federal program of public works, retraining, and jobs for all - so that none, white or black, will have cause to feel threatened ... There is nothing except shortsightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimum and livable income for every American family." Where Do We Go From Here?


Many economists agree that the unemployment rate will remain tragically high unless there is a concentrated program of government-funded, short-term job creation. Instead, budget cutbacks are forcing layoffs of government employees, especially at the state level. Republicans are refusing to back any extension of unemployment benefits. Among their Presidential candidates, only Mitt Romney appears to support increasing the minimum wage.