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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy

 Minister Glenda Jackson at the Second Baptist Church in Boulder where she serves as an associate minister.
Maeve Conran
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Minister Glenda Jackson at the Second Baptist Church in Boulder where she serves as an associate minister.

Glenda Strong Robinson is an associate minister and historian for the Second Baptist Church in Boulder. She's the second woman voted in as associate minister in their 116-year-history.

She also serves on the executive committee for the NAACP Boulder branch and works as their historian.

In addition, she serves as the oral history liaison at the Museum of Boulder's 'Proclaiming Colorado's Black History Exhibit.'

Glenda Robinson: So, on March 28, 1968, which was Dr. King's last deed on earth, last public deed I'll say, on earth, the 'I Am a Man March', I was in that march on that day. That was almost 56 years ago. It will be on March 28, 2024, will be 56 years.

And it was for, which is ironic, that this Nobel Peace Prize winner, this Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader, this civil rights icon, would be marching on behalf of garbage workers. The sanitation strike, March 28, 1968. And then that didn't end well. A riot erupted on that day, which was programed or predetermined or preplanned. And he said, "I only conduct nonviolent marches."

So he was whisked away from that march and said, "I will be back."

What we did not know was that exactly one week later, he would come back to Memphis, my hometown, on April 3, 1968, and delivered that very prophetic 'I've Been to the Mountaintop' speech.

I think he knew that his time had come. And then, of course, on April 4, 1968, standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, he was brutally murdered for freedom, the freedoms that we all enjoy today, and every person, every American people around the world are benefiting from that life.

And I always say man thought he had killed the dreamer, you know, he had the dream. Man thought he had killed the dreamer, but today his dream is bigger than ever. It was a larger than life prophetic moment on that day. And so we celebrate a birthday for him giving his life for the freedoms that each of us enjoy today.

Jackie Sedley: I know MLK Day has been federally recognized as a holiday, observed across the country since 1986. This means people, they have the day off work and school for the most part, but needless to say, the meaning of the day itself goes far beyond that. What perceptions of the day do you see in 2024? Has willingness to commemorate the day meaningfully faded into the background at all? Or within your community, do you see a solid amount of engagement?

Glenda Robinson: A little bit of both. A little bit of both. But I do what I do because I want people to know that freedom is not free.

Someone paid the price for all of us and we like to relegate it to Black people, but the 'I Have a Dream' march in 1963, and the sanitation workers strike, and Dr. King giving his life for the cause of freedom was for everybody, for all humanity.

Freedom is not free and I happened to know people whose lives were taken trying to vote for the right to vote. And I mentioned the right to vote, the very march from Selma to Montgomery, which is where I was in March of 2023, the right to vote started as a result of the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson taking his grandfather and his mother to vote.

The sheriff said to the old man, the grandfather, "if you vote or you try to cast that ballot, I'm going to shoot you." Jimmie Lee Jackson jumped in front of them and he took the bullet. He was 26-years-old and he lost his life. And thus, the Selma to Montgomery march, which unfortunately on the first try ended with Bloody Sunday, and then the second attempt, Dr. King was just making a statement, so he went to the bottom of the bridge.

It wasn't until that third try that the government volunteered federal troops and marshals to escort them along that 54-plus-mile walk to get from Selma to Montgomery.

So freedom costs and some people paid the price for them and we all benefit, not just Black people, but red, yellow, brown, Black, and white people around the world are benefiting from these very acts.

Jackie Sedley: I read this quote that Coretta Scott King, who was MLK's wife at the time of his assassination, wrote in the Washington Post in the 80s about her wishes for the holiday honoring her husband. And she said, "the holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration. Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress."

So how do you think we can honor these wishes within the 2024 landscape if we choose to?

Glenda Robinson: Well, thank you, I'm glad you asked that. For the work that I've done for the last, I don't know, umpteen years, since the 90s, we have established five pillars for our programs, and those are service, celebration, education, tribute, and solidarity.

And so for each one of those things, we have to honor the fact that we as a people, as a nation, as a world have got to come together in solidarity, that every life matters.

Human lives matter. Our tribute, we're honored to celebrate the life of this man who gave his life. And education, so few people know really the significance of this man, this movement, and this moment, and so we need to educate ourselves. That's what I'm trying to do. And then the celebration is, of course, is a wonderful thing, but it's not just about marching, it's about that symbolic march.

I happened to be in Washington, D.C. in 2019, I think, and I met my daughter there, and we were coming up the escalator and she says, "mom, with all the work that you've done in Denver and Longmont and Boulder and Colorado, don't you think you're on this wall in the African American Museum of History and Culture?" And I said, "honey, not a chance."

So we come up the escalator and we look to the left and there is that picture of the march that I was in on April 8, 1968, on the wall at the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture.

She goes, "mom, there's the picture." And then of course. pandemonium broke out you know, so I'm glad to be a part of history, I can just say that.

Copyright 2024 KGNU. To see more, visit KGNU.

This story was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio. It was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including KSJD.

Jackie Sedley