Tuesday, January 15, 2013

MLK Day 2013

On this day in 1929 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born. 

On Saturday January 19, 2013, beginning at 8:00 a.m., Collin College will again host the Dr. Martin Luther King Day Leadership Power Breakfast at Collin College Spring Creek Campus Living Legends Conference Center.

The Power/Community Unity Walk event  at 11:00 a.m follows the breakfast starting. The walk assembles at the north parking lot of the Parker Road DART station (2600 Archerwood) and will involve Collin College students and staff as well as community members. 

A Plano City Hall Program begins at 12:00 p.m., immediately following the Unity Walk, in the Plano Municipal Building Council Chambers, 1520 K Ave, Plano, TX 75074.  Keynote Speaker is Dale Long, noted Community Leader and organizer, 2007 Clifford P. Norman National Award winner for local board participation from Big Brothers and Sisters of America.  Enjoy the MLK All-Community Choir in a musical tribute to Dr. King on Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 7:00 PM at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 920 E. 14th St., Plano, TX 75074.

National Day of Service activities will take place around the area on Saturday afternoon. Collin College students and staff will be a part of rebuilding trails at local centers or restoring, cleaning, stocking and moving furniture in partnership with the City of Plano and Habitat for Humanity. Four years ago President Obama started the National Day of Service, a day to honor the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and continue the lifelong commitment to service our community. On January 19th, 2013 President Obama is asking all citizens to participate in a tradition his family started in 2009, and spend the day doing service work in communities across the country. You can volunteer on Saturday, January 19th by clicking to the National Day of Service webpage.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a United States federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King's birthday, January 15. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968, and the idea was strongly supported by labor unions. After King's death, United States Representative John Conyers (a Democrat from Michigan) and United States Senator Edward Brooke (a Republican from Massachusetts) first introduced a bill in Congress to make King's birthday a national holiday. The bill first came to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979. However, it fell five votes short of the number needed for passage.

The bill was finally passed by Congress and Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20, 1986. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

Dr. King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.

Dr. Martin Luther King
(Jan. 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968)
The 1965 Voting Rights Act was a natural follow on to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Ironically, the 1964 Act had resulted in an outbreak of violence in the South. White racists had launched a campaign against the success that Martin Luther King had had in getting African Americans to register to vote. The violence reminded Pres. Johnson that more was needed if the civil rights issue was to be suitably reduced.

Johnson introduced to Congress the idea of a Voting Rights Act in what is considered to be one of his best speeches:
"Rarely are we met with a challenge…..to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such as an issue…..the command of the Constitution is plain. It is wrong - deadly wrong - to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country."
With his commitment to the cause, Congress realized that Johnson would not back down on this issue and if they hindered or failed to back it, Americans would view the failure to be one by Congress alone.

The Act was passed. It outlawed literacy tests and poll taxes as a way of assessing whether anyone was fit or unfit to vote. As far as Johnson was concerned, all you needed to vote was American citizenship and the registration of your name on an electoral list. No form of hindrance to this would be tolerated by the law courts.

The impact of this act was dramatic. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the traditional 13 Southern states, had less than 50% of African Americans registered to vote. By 1968, even hard-line Mississippi had 59% of African Americans registered. In the longer term, far more African Americans were elected into public office.

The Act was the boost that the civil rights cause needed to move it swiftly along and Johnson has to take full credit for this. As Martin Luther King had predicted in earlier years, demonstrations served a good purpose but real change would only come through the power of Federal government.

Just days after the November 2012 Election the Supreme Court announced that it would take a fresh look at the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the signature legacies of the civil rights movement.  Congress has repeatedly extended the requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending provisions of the Voting Rights Act for 25 years.

Odds are, the Supreme Court will strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act after hearing a case from Alabama that will be argued next month. If the part of the law called Section 5 does indeed go down, minority voters in Southern states and elsewhere will lose a key bargaining chip. Section 5 has enabled them to beat back some attempts to make it harder for them to vote, and helped insure that the gains they’ve made in representation and redistricting are not rolled back. As another recent fight over Texas' voter ID law shows, Section 5 still serves a vital role in an era in which partisan legislatures may manipulate election laws for political gain

Like many other states with Republican majority legislatures acting over the last few years, Texas adopted a tough photo identification law before the 2012 election. The state’s Republican legislature likely acted out of the belief that such laws would marginally depress Democratic turnout and help Republicans at the polls. Controversy over voter ID laws also motivates the Republican base to turn out to vote. (What voter ID laws don’t do is prevent a lot of real voter fraud, though that’s the rationale their supporters cite.) A federal court Texas' voter ID requirement under Section 5. 

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department or a federal court is required to pre-clear laws affecting voters before they go into effect in jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination -- and that includes Texas.

In March, the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division refused to clear the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 14 (SB 14), saying Texas officials had failed to prove that it wouldn’t adversely affect minorities. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice in the Washington D.C. Circuit Court to have the state’s controversial voter photo I.D. law implemented without further delay.

Under federal law, lawsuits seeking so-called “pre-clearance” of changes to voting procedures in all of seven mostly Southern states and parts of nine others, are heard by three-judge panels composed of two district court judges and an appeals court judge. D.C. Circuit Judge David Tatel and District Court Judges Rosemary Collyer and Robert Wilkins were impaneled to hear the Texas photo ID case.

Late last August, the three-judge panel ruled against the Texas Photo I.D. Law that would require voters to present photo I.D. to election officials before being allowed to cast ballots. The three-judge panel found that the law imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor" and noted that racial minorities in Texas are more likely to live in poverty.   See:Texas’ Long History Against Voting Rights

"I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s address at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.

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