Martin Luther King, Jr. was 26 years old when he helped organize and lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott and brought nonviolence and civil disobedience to the nightly news. He was 34 when he described a dream of racial equality to 250,000 people. He was 35 when the Civil Rights Act outlawed segregation and he marched from Selma. He was 39 when he was shot down.
In other words, he was young. He wasn’t even middle-aged when he built those bridges to a better country.
Yesterday’s march, vigil and banquet in downtown Fayetteville focused on today’s 20- and 30-somethings. The push for social and political equality isn’t over, marchers said again and again, and it’s going to need new Kings. Hundreds of people came out. I wrote about it all for today’s paper.
Nationwide protests against the deaths of people of color at the hands of police continue. This year is the 50th anniversary of the push for voting rights in Selma. A movie dramatizing the marches from that Alabama town — and the sometimes deadly police and civilian brutality that met them — is out this month. Marchers of every age and color Monday chatted and laughed together, then joined in hymns and chants that rang out during demonstrations decades ago.
Our history and present feel particularly connected these days. It’s an amazing time for a journalist to dive into these complex, immensely important issues. I was glad to be there, and I hope my story did the day justice.
The University of Arkansas hosted the post-march vigil, and in a speech there, Arkansas State Rep. Eddie Armstrong of North Little Rock addressed the students directly. He called on them to use their education to keep building those bridges to a better country, as a 26-year-old did a generation ago.
“The leaders of tomorrow are sitting here in this room,” he said. “You have to take charge of the life that’s in front of you, because if you don’t, the bridges stop getting built.”
Thanks for looking,