Dozens of service members and personnel assigned to U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and U.S. Pacific Command attended the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day observance Jan. 14 at the MarForPac headquarters building here.
The purpose of the event was to celebrate the contributions Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made to American society.
During the event, attendees celebrated his life with songs and poems honoring the memory of the man who led the civil rights movement, furthering the cause of equal rights for all Americans regardless of their race or skin color.
“Some ‘kings’ rule their kingdoms sitting down, but this King stood strong, stood proud, stood tall,” said Master Sgt. Aretha Grubbs, PACOM’s senior enlisted Marine advisor, as she recited portions of “Standing Tall” by Jamie McKenzie.
Born on Jan. 15, 1929, King was raised in an America where segregation was the law of the land. He realized that education would set him apart and give him a “leg up” in a world that often discriminated against blacks.
At the age of 19, King received a bachelor’s degree in sociology. In 1951, the son of a Baptist minister completed theological seminary training, and four years later, received his doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University at age 26.
“He was a man who was upset with the current state of our nation and wanted to make a change,” said Ernest Golden, guest speaker at the observance and vice chairman of the African American Diversity Cultural Center of Hawaii. “He realized that education was the first step to making that change possible.”
A devout religious man and father of four children, King believed he could change the hearts and minds of others by preaching peace, love and non-violent civil disobedience.
His first success of note occurred in 1955, when he led a boycott against Montgomery, Ala., bus lines. After a year, King won what was described as a major civil-rights victory by forcing the bus lines into operating on a desegregated basis.
He later helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he used to further coordinate civil-rights activities around the nation.
Along his journey, King and those who followed him were met with violence. Many were arrested, beaten with police batons, attacked by dogs or shot with fire hoses. King received numerous death threats and found his home vandalized on more than one occasion, but he never gave in and continued to preach peace, love and equality.
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity,” King said in 1963.
That same year, King led more than 200,000 people to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. where he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he said. “I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.”
One year later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing segregation in public venues, and discrimination in education and employment.
Later, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which suspended and eventually banned literacy tests and restrictions to prevent blacks from voting.
King continued to fight injustice and discrimination. Despite rising movements in black society preaching violence to end racism in the U.S., King continued to preach peace.
On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated while supporting a strike for fairer wages for black garbage collectors in Memphis, Tenn.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan established Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as a federal holiday.
“I think an important point to remember is that unlike George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, Dr. King was not a man in any position of power, “ said Col. Alan L. Thoma, commander, Headquarters and Service Battalion, MarForPac. “He influenced positive change in our society as a man who had no official authority. His life is a testament to the difference one man can make.”