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Ohio MLK ceremony: They couldnt assassinate the dream

(April 4, 2018) — On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., lawmakers and local leaders said his dreams live on in today’s activism.

King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39.

Dignitaries gathered at the Statehouse on Wednesday to honor King. A central theme at the event was King’s legacy, as well as how his messages of nonviolence and unity apply to the world today.

“The forces that be could assassinate the dreamer, but they couldn’t assassinate the dream,” said David Jehnsen, who led a Chicago delegation during the famous 1963 march on Washington. “If they could assassinate the dream we wouldn’t be standing here.”

The Rev. Joel L. King, Jr., a first cousin of Martin Luther King Jr. and a pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in Columbus, said the best way to honor his cousin’s legacy is to continue pursuing equality.

“Trouble is still in our land,” King said. “Like then and now, something is happening in our world and our country. The masses of people, including young people today, are rising up. Not just in Ohio, but all around the world. The cry is ‘We want to be free, and enough is enough.’”

Jehnsen and King both emphasized the importance of supporting young, nonviolent activists.

“What we’re seeing today is a revival of the spirit of nonviolence,” said Jehnsen, founding member of Living Peace Church of the Brethren in Columbus. “It’s young people who are taking the lead. Yes, they’re going to use different methodologies, different tactics, but it’s very important that we support them.”

King alluded to President Donald Trump’s proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and he drew comparisons between physical walls and walls that divide races, classes and genders.

“Whatever the wall is, wherever they exist … they put men and women out of touch with each other,” King said. “It is through unity that we are able to focus our energies.”

State Rep. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, said activism across the United States is a sign that King’s dream is alive.

“From the teachers’ walkout … to students demonstrating for gun safety, there are people all over America standing up during times of challenge and controversy,” Craig said.