WWMS: What would Martin say?

Jan 31, 2022

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1963. (Photo from National Archives)



 Many of us are familiar with “WWJD,” also known as “What would Jesus do?”

In this case, we should ask ourselves, “WWMS” or “What would Martin say?”

This same question was posed by Clarence Jones, the lawyer, draft speech writer, adviser and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He actually wrote an entire book on the subject titled, “What Would Martin Say,” published in April 2008.

When issues and incidents pertaining to social injustice arise, this question probably crosses the minds of many Americans, especially those of color.

Although some believe that we have progressed tremendously since the rise and leadership of King, history seems to always find a way to repeat itself, which has caused us as a people to continue fighting for equality, freedom, justice and peace.

Harvard professor and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. stated in an interview with Aspen Institute President Walter Isaccson that there have been both steps forward and backward.

“While America elected its first African American president, the number of Black men behind bars is five times the number of white men. African American superstars like Oprah and Michael Jackson have emerged, but the class divide in the Black community has deepened,” Gates said.

Again, this question is deep and causes one’s mind to wonder as well as ponder.

Would the legendary civil rights leader be pleased or dismayed? Would he focus solely on the accomplishments and progress or the downhill spiral of racism and injustice we are still pushing our way through.

A few Claflin students attempted to tackle this confounding question when approached for their thoughts.

Claflin senior Zamar Jager said, “I think he would be proud but also a little discouraged just based on (how) things are currently going.”

Psychology major Delisha McIntosh said, “I believe that he would feel some type of way because we are still marching for the same thing he was marching for 59 years ago, which is before our generation was born and he would probably be appalled by the fact that people of color are still being treated as if we don’t belong.”

Darius Mcclary, who majors in Human Performance and Recreation said, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about this but since you asked, I’d say he would applaud us for our effort and consistency with keeping his legacy alive, but he would tell us there is more to be done and instruct us on how to continue with changing society.”


How much do students know about Dr. King?


It’s been hypothesized by many that Dr. Martin Luther King’s work and contributions are not remembered as they should be.

Brainly, an online learning platform, recently conducted a survey with more than 1,700 U.S. students to better understand what they know and don’t know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his life and his legacy. 

Claflin’s students answered similar questions of their own about the topic.

“Martin Luther King set the world on fire through empathy,” junior Emahni Cansler said. “He didn’t hate his enemy; he understood their fear of the unknowing.”

“He was at the forefront of what we call peaceful protesting and was committed to his community by lighting the lantern through the civil rights movement since 1950,” Cansler said.

“He helped progress the civil rights movement. Obviously, he wasn’t the only one, but he is one of the few who impacted America in a large way,” senior Folade Oyewole said.

“He helped African Americans achieve equality,” sophomore Sharon Rajahadhas said.

According to studies, 63% of U.S. students incorrectly identified Dr. King's accomplishments or were simply not aware of some of the most important things he did to contribute to America’s civil rights movement

Roughly 18% didn't know he organized the famous "March on Washington;" and astonishingly, 19% said he didn't give the famous "I Have a Dream Speech."

These findings weren’t looked at lightly by Claflin students.

“It’s upsetting because how do we continue the marathon if we don’t even remember what we’re running for?” Cansler said.

“I think it’s unfair. After everything he’s done, I feel like it should be remembered or else everything he sacrificed wouldn’t be as meaningful,” Rajahadhas said.

There are many thoughts on what can be done to keep King’s legacy alive.

 “Honestly, just talk about him. You can gain an interest in someone even if you know nothing. The more we speak about him, the better,” Oyewole said.

“We need to do better by showing the youth there is more to the world than just exploitation of Black ignorance. By educating Black youth to be doctors and scientists, leaders, presidents, and activists so that our people get that justice and equality should have been in our society since the beginning of time,” Cansler said.

“MLK wanted us to be doctors, lawyers and scientists because who else better would fight for a just and equal society,” Cansler said.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on his birthday, Jan. 17.


Is the holiday still relevant? 


 Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day still relevant and should we continue to celebrate it? 

Claflin SGA President Lauren Tolbert shared her opinion about the day that we all come together to remember the legacy King has left.  

“I think the day is still relevant. It allows us to revisit the topic of injustice that Black people went through,” Tolbert said. “It a wonderful way to start conversation about what could we do better.”

Tolbert said other individuals also are worthy of being celebrated. “I think we honestly should give more days to people during that time.”

But Cam Brutus said she does not think Martin Luther King Jr. Day is still relevant.  

“No, I feel like the day has really lost the significance for what it supposed to be. It is more of a laid-back day for most people than what we should be celebrating it for, Brutus said.

Yet she agrees with Tolbert on honoring others.

“I think instead of just highlighting one primary person, we should have a holiday for all the people during civil rights.” It took more than one man to make the civil rights movement, Brutus said.

“Yes, Dr. King did do a lot for the movement, but it wasn’t just him that moved the movement forward.”

Brutus’ views are not shared by John Wilson.

“He’s the reason we are still in school because of what he fought for,” Wilson said.  

“We still celebrate Columbus Day, so why not continue to celebrate Dr. King?”


King holiday remains important, students says


Claflin University students see the importance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Three Claflin students spoke to the issue:

Junior Caleb Patterson: “It is Important because it had ended segregation and he had helped everyone come together and live better lives to help each other out and to care for one another.”

Senior Cameron Patterson: “It is important because during the 1950s and ‘60s, he was an advocate for the rights of African Americans. He was also famous for his famous speeches and his boycotting became very successful in the civil rights movement.”

Jay Hall: Because he worked to advance civil rights. The words, leadership, time and energy King … helped end segregation in the United States.

“Students also recognized the meaning of HBCUs schools in the fight for equal rights. In 1948, Dr. King had earned a B.A. degree in sociology from Morehouse College, an HBCU college.”

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