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How Far We Have Come Yet, We Have Fallen Back... Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Updated: Jan 25

Martin Luther King, Jr. (born January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.—died April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee). He was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. His leadership was fundamental to that movement's success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the Southland and other parts of the United States. King rose to national prominence as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which promoted nonviolent tactics, such as the massive March on Washington (1963), to achieve civil rights. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Dr. King's fight was not only geared toward African Americans but toward all people to make a change. Emphasizing and uplifting those who were/are economically disadvantaged and victims of injustice. As a result of his diligence in America, various individuals, regardless of their race and/or ethnicity, have been given the opportunity to obtain an education, have high-profile employment, vote, be business owners, millionaire actors or athletes, and more. Dr. King became the voice and strength needed to break down barriers to freedom from not only slavery but bondage.

We have come so far; however, we have some who have fallen back and become enslaved by something more powerful than man: Substance Misuse, Alcohol, and undiagnosed Mental Illness.

The War on Drugs has created a system of mass incarceration that divides our country by race and income, similar to slavery and the Jim Crow laws that Dr. Martin Luther King gave his life to eradicate. Dr. King Jr. was assassinated three years before President Richard Nixon launched this drug war in 1971, so the world can't know exactly what Dr. King Jr. would have thought about it. However, his stance and speeches on unification could guide us on how to deal with this War on Drugs, which I believe he would have viewed as a manifestation of tragic irony.

Substance use, Alcoholism, and Undiagnosed Mental Illness have put many people back into the world of "mass incarceration status." Substance use, Alcoholism, and Undiagnosed Mental Illness are extreme in our communities and are evolving into increased crime, deaths, overdoses, homelessness, and poverty. Dr. King fought for people to have a better life, but some factors, such as substance misuse, alcoholism, and undiagnosed mental illness, have stagnated the process.

We do not have Dr. King Jr. to bring us out of this bondage, but because of his work, we have a platform.

Therefore, we need to follow the lead of Dr. King Jr. and use our voices to advocate for those who have fallen prey to substance use, alcohol, and undiagnosed mental illness. We must rally together and use our voices to obtain the needed services to assist all people in freeing themselves in their time of need. Therefore, freeing them from bondage and empowering them to remember How Far We Have Come while using this as a strength to be all they can be without questioning their position in life.  Ultimately, this gives them the power to stand firm and be strong men or women who can make good choices and decisions and exercise their rights to create a better life for themselves once again. 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

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