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By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D., Kansas City, MO –

The work of Martin Luther King, Jr. remains unfinished and as we pause to commemorate his life, if he could speak, he would surely ask each of us to pick up the causes for the poor and disenfranchised and continue to press on.

If King were among us, he’d no doubt be flattered and appreciative of all the celebration and commemoration of his life’s work that have already begun as we approach the holiday set aside in his honor. But, odds are, he’d much prefer as we go about our daily lives that his legacy lives. That we pick up where he left off to help make the lives of the impoverished be they black or white, rich or poor, city dweller or farmer, old or young.

Improving the predicament of mankind is what it’s all about. And there’s still a lot to be done. A lot of the dilemmas and matters King lived and died for are in need of energy and our attention. Look around you. There are a number of examples where there’s slippage and regression in the areas of race relations, religious toleration, social justice, equal economic and educational opportunities – in the world and the nation, but right in our own communities. Work of Martin Luther King unfinished.

Nearly daily, we get horrible and blatant reminders: events of discrimination in the marketplace, an ethnic slur here, a derogatory remark there. Stereotypical pictures, too commonly, color and order how we perceive or relate to a stranger, where we sit, where we go to eat, where we take in a movie.

What are you willing to do in your neighbor, community, city and nation to advance the quality of life for those who are most disenfranchised?Too frequently, the reminders get a little worse. Someone is beaten or killed due to their skin color, due to their evident or obvious sexual orientation, their religious beliefs. And then there are the less obvious offenses on mankind that are with us every day through some kind or the other – disenfranchisement produced of greed and economic inequality, the healthy and not- healthy, the educated and the uneducated.

Someone is denied a job, a house, a loan, a seat in a classroom.

Would Dr. King appreciate our addressing a lot of these issues – Honoring his heritage by creating heritages of our own? Our chant should be: Work of Martin Luther King unfinished.

Now is a good time to ask what’s altered significantly (for better or worse) over the last ten years, 20, 30, 40, 50 years? A critical and honest review is warranted by it. No matter what major changes have occurred, or failed to happen, we should ask, “Why or Why not?”

Perhaps the most important question is: “What role have I played in the change, stagnation, retrogression?”

Too often, we convince ourselves that we, as individuals cannot have an impact or make a difference. But imagine if everyone – if King – believed that manner. Where would society be? What is the state of our neighborhood, our country, the world? Individual effort can and do affect the state and quality of life whether on a small or large scale.

The work of Martin Luther King, Jr. stays incomplete.  Merely look around.

Edited and Reprinted with Permission of

Work of Martin Luther King Unfinished

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis
Janice S. Ellis, PhD, is an award-winning author. Her book, From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major book sellers. She has written a column for newspapers, radio, and now online, where she analyzes educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. You can see her writings on this website.

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