Happy Birthday to You

    Happy Birthday to You

    Every year, on the third Monday of January, the world celebrates Martin Luther King Day. So this Monday the 17th is a day to remember the epic work and legendary words of the great man, born January 15th 1929 and the leader of the civil rights movement in the USA until his assassination in 1968.

    King was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a pastor, and his father’s Christian faith moulded him through his early years to become a young man driven by a sense of fairness and a burning desire to make the world a better place of everyone. America was bitterly divided in the 1950s as black people were denied the vote and were subject to segregation, and King became the most revered spokesman for the civil rights movement, inspired by the non-violent activism of Mahatma Ghandi.

    He led marches for black’s right to vote in 1955 and later organised a series of non-violent protests in Birmingham Alabama, before the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered the iconic ‘I have a dream’ speech on the steps of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through non-violent resistance.

    After his death, the labour unions of the USA pushed the idea of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and US senators introduced a bill. Two other historical figures already had holidays in their name, Christopher Columbus and George Washington, but this idea fell five votes short in a vote in 1979, as senators feared the cost of another national holiday.

    King’s supporters garnered support from the corporate community and, as momentum gathered, Stevie Wonder’s brilliant single ‘Happy Birthday’ popularized the campaign which eventually came through and we can now all celebrate with our friends from ‘across the pond’.

    Elsewhere, but not far from the States, January 21st is a big day in Bardados as the country commemorates former Prime Minister Errol Barrow who helped the country move towards political independence. So raise a class of rum, or coke, or both, next Friday as the Bajans enjoy their holiday.

    Luther actor takes on knife crime 

    We can join in the celebrations of friends worldwide but, unfortunately, there is rather less to celebrate on our own shores this month (apart from maybe Burns Night on the 25th). But hopefully a new campaign, fronted by actor Idris Elba, will make life better for countless families who suffer from the fear of knife crime casting a dark shadow over daily life.

    Elba, made famous by his role as tough cop Luther, has denounced knife crime in the capital city and launched his ‘No More Red’ campaign. He was at Arsenal’s Carabao Cup clash with Nottingham Forrest last Sunday as the Gunners wore an all white kit instead of their customary red. The 49 year old star said: “No More Red literally means ‘no more bloodshed’. It’s absolutely in response to knife crime crisis that we’ve got going on.

    “Last year 30 kids died senselessly over knife crime. And the year before that, the year before that, it’s an ongoing problem.” Former Arsenal and Burnley striker Ian Wright is behind the campaign, and he and Elba hope that football can make a difference. The national game is watched by teenagers country-wide and the message can be amplified through the sport.

    It’s certainly a campaign to get behind.

    Have a good week everybody and…Happy Birthday Martin Luther King.


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