#ReclaimMLK Protests Call For A 'Year of Resistance’

Two young women join the march on Monday January 19. Image courtesy Charissa L

Two young women join the march on Monday January 19. Image courtesy Charissa Laisy/Sojourners.

Over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, protesters across the country sought to reclaim the radical, activist legacy of Dr. King by taking to the streets in protest of ongoing police brutality. Frustrated that his work has too often been softened and sanitized, protesters stressed that Dr. King’s original tactics, which were often direct and controversial, are desperately needed today if the United States is to effect lasting change.

 “[Dr. King] has become more of a vague idea and people forget that he was a person that marched the streets,” one protester in Washington D.C., Caroline, said.

“They need to be talking about real activism and real change and not just having a day off work and saying the name.”

Another woman, Janelle, described Dr. King as “a great leader but also part of a larger movement that is still trying to combat the same injustices that he was fighting against.”

Marching with three children under the age of ten, Janelle explained their presence bluntly.

“This problem isn’t going to go away,” she said.

Explaining 'Black Lives Matter'

Protests on Dec. 27 in New York City. a katz / Shutterstock.com

Protests on Dec. 27 in New York City. a katz / Shutterstock.com

It is difficult to understand why people, particularly Christians, view a statement as patently obvious as “Black Lives Matter” as a subject for controversy. However, sometimes the most obvious things still need to be said.


Black lives matter because God made every one of us in God’s image. Black lives matter because the Bible tells us that we are part of a body and the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” Black lives matter because God pays particular care to those crying out under the burden of injustice and oppression.

As people of faith in a neighborhood that has been rocked by protests, tear gas, and arrests, we have sought to stand in solidarity with those who are groaning under the burden of oppression. We offer some physical support — hand warmers, a cup of coffee, an extra pair of socks, but we also offer our presence. The Bible often refers to Christians as “witnesses,” and there is something important about simply standing next to our neighbors in the streets and seeing what is actually happening.

We firmly believe that Jesus needs to be down in the clouds of tear gas and he lets us, his people, participate in his reconciliation by bringing him there with our own two feet. Christians, and particularly evangelicals, need to be in the streets. Our neighbors are just outside our doors, crying out that the system is broken and that our culture doesn’t value the lives of our brothers and sisters. We, as Christians, believe in sin and brokenness and we need to live out our belief that God values all of God’s people even as our culture picks and chooses who is worth caring about.

Why We Must #ReclaimMLK

A memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gazes towards the Washington Monument i

A memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gazes towards the Washington Monument in DC. Image courtesy Steve Heap/shutterstock.com

In cities and towns across our nation, this weekend’s coordinated actions for the #BlackLivesMatter movement center on reclaiming Martin Luther King Jr.’s radical legacy. As you may recall, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and President Barack Obama — among others — invoked the nonviolence of King in their calls for peace following the non-indictment of Darren Wilson. As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approached, organizers had to field countless criticisms by white people telling them, “King wouldn’t approve of what you’re doing” and “I’ve studied his work, I know he wouldn’t react like you have.”

Based on comments like these, it stands to reason that white people in the United States may need a jolt of reality about King’s anti-capitalist agitation.

King was outspoken against capitalism’s oppressive clutch on both the national and global levels. King made it clear that racism and economics were intimately intertwined. I’m reminded of his classic quote, “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

King acknowledged that the discussion of class couldn’t be divorced from the discussion of race. While both conversations make us uncomfortable, somehow we would rather remember King as a civil rights leader only, and not also as a vocal critic of capitalism who instead favored a form of Democratic Socialism.

I often hear criticisms that protesters are disturbing the peace, employing overly aggressive tactics, and generally making people too uncomfortable. The hypocrisy in these claims is that King disturbed the peace, used aggressive tactics, and made people extremely uncomfortable. Why do we call for peace when what we mean is order?