Instead of just a day off from school and time away from work, people should use the national holiday commemorating the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to reflect on new and more creative ways to end the growing gun violence and homicides in the Kansas City area and throughout the United States.
Schools have taught for nearly 50 years since King’s assassination that the civil rights leader preached nonviolent resistance as a way to end discrimination and win voting and and other constitutional rights for African Americans and other people of color. Area residents today conclude a week of events, featuring speeches, music, awards and performances celebrating King’s legacy.
But work King inspired for peace and opportunity should continue year-round. King’s generational lessons still have the power to turn people away from rancor and violence as a means to solve conflicts and problems.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James’ 19-member Citizens Task Force on Violence needs to become the drum major, leading the march for more civil discourse. James appointed the panel in hopes that it could come up with solutions.
Right now the city is on the wrong path. After an encouraging downturn in homicides in 2014, last year ended with an unacceptable 109 murders. The high number of homicides already in 2016 has a lot of people worried about the total by the end of this year.
Domestic violence is an area that remains a challenge. The mayor’s task force needs to address that, drawing on family counseling, community and mental health resources to turn people away from the tragic consequences of violence, especially with guns, which are used most often in killings.
Creative uses of King’s timeless and powerful messages could be projected year-round — on rolling billboards, metro buses or perhaps in the new digital streetcar kiosks, which will carry loads of civic information. People can read and absorb King’s words of reconciliation, tolerance, forgiveness and mercy. It would help disarm the hatred and intolerance that have dominated the national landscape.
An example might come from the speech in which King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Stockholm, Sweden, in December 1964: “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
Another from King in 1957: “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one's whole being into the being of another.”
The schools could get involved with children being the cheerleaders for peace, citing King’s work. Mothers in Charge could get involved. The movement could bring people together around a shared concern for an end to violence.
King knew it years ago. We’re still trying to learn that no one benefits from violence. It just causes a lot of hurt and pain.