Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy in the Civil Rights space is an ever-present inspiration to all oppressed and marginalized people. MLK played a massively pivotal role in inspiring the Black community, but through his speeches, fights, and political views, he also effectively highlighted that the spirit of mutuality is where we needed to collectively focus. As MLK noted, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
It’s in this spirit that he was able to influence Latino leaders and communities to join in the fight for civil rights and collective liberation.
MLK Supported Civil Right Latino Activists
César Chávez admired MLK’s work. And MLK was impressed by what Chávez was achieving for the movement. MLK sent a telegram where he recognized that the work that needed to be done for both Black and Latino people were the same struggles and they both needed to support each other.
Cesar Chávez and Dolores Huerta, co-founders of the United Farm Workers of America, inspired by MLK’s work, launched their own marches in California and adopted nonviolent strategies like boycotts and picketing.
MLK Wanted Latinos Involved in the Poor People’s Campaign
MLK contacted Gilberto Gerena Valentín, president of the NYC Puerto Rican Day Parade, to help him get a better turnout of Latinos supporting civil rights work. After all, as he had mentioned to Chávez, they had a lot in common and working together was obviously apparent and necessary.
MLK Supported the United Farm Workers Union at a Critical Moment
MLK’s endorsement of Chávez helped the Latino community have someone who inspired them. Both Chávez and Huerta followed MLK’s steps and helped create pressure campaigns that led to better conditions for farmworkers.
MLK Attended a Los Angeles rally for Mexican Americans
MLK gave a speech at a rally of over 20,000 at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field. He sponsored special guest speaker Juan Cornejo (the first Mexican American elected to the all-white city council). His presence inspired people to donate to various causes that fought for people of color’s needs.
MLK’s Legacy is Timeless
MLK’s work will always be a source of inspiration to others. Even though we’re still a massively long way from the dream he envisioned, reminding ourselves that together we can work towards a better future is the best lesson we can move forward with. Service to his legacy means being in service to ourselves while being in service to others without getting into oppression olympics. It’s not about who has it worse, but rather acknowledging the harm, trying to move forward collectively to address it, and solve it for the good of all.