The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. continues in PBI’s accompaniment of threatened social leaders

Published by Brent Patterson on

This Sunday April 4 marks the anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.

Earlier this week, King’s daughter Bernice tweeted this quote from her father: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

Notably, the founding statement for PBI, marking its 40th anniversary this year, includes the line: “We are building on a rich and extensive heritage of nonviolent action, which no longer can be ignored. This heritage tells us that peace is more than the absence of war.”

We also recall that on September 1, 1981, Charlie Walker read from King at PBI’s founding meeting on Algonquin territory, just south of Ottawa.

Throughout the 1960s, Walker helped recruit and train participants for nonviolent actions targeting racial injustice, including Freedom Rides, sit-ins, the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, and the 1963 March on Washington. During the Montgomery bus boycott (from 1955-56), he met and corresponded with King.

Subsequent letters from King note: “Mr. Walker has been close to developments in the struggle for racial justice ever since I first met him in Montgomery, in early 1956” and describe him as a man of “skill and understanding.”

King was arrested 29 times challenging, as he described in May 1967, “the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.”

And less than six months before he was killed, King was in Toronto speaking of his vision of the American civil rights movement as part of an international struggle.

That legacy lives on in PBI’s commitment to international solidarity and the physical accompaniment of social leaders at risk of being killed for their activism in countries including Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

In Colombia alone, 177 human rights defenders were killed in 2020, more than half the global total of defenders killed last year.

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