MLK’s Family: Don’t Celebrate MLK Day, Pass Voting Rights
In January, Martin Luther King Jr.’s family is using his birthday and the federal holiday to push for Congress to pass voting rights legislation.
Family members of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. plan to commemorate his legacy in an unusual, but fitting, way next month: by refusing to celebrate in the name of voting rights.
Beginning in Arizona on Jan. 15, the late King Jr.’s birthday, members of his family will call on organizers, faith leaders, and everyday people to cross physical bridges in their communities as a form of protest to restrictive voting laws. The demonstrations will culminate in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Day, where the King family will call for no celebrations of the holiday until the Biden administration and Congress succeed on voting rights policy.
“It’s certainly great that this got done, ” King’s daughter-in-law, Arndrea Waters King, told The Daily Beast of President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure framework. But now that the bipartisan infrastructure bill has been accomplished, Waters King said voters are looking for Congress and the White House to “use that same power and muscle to come together and really stand now for the people” on voting rights.
Waters King, her husband, Martin Luther King III, and their daughter, Yolanda Renee King, are leading the effort. They’ll be joined by groups including the National Urban League, Move On, the Working Families Party and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, among others.
While the House passed multiple voting and elections reforms bills earlier this year, those efforts have stalled in the Senate, being unable to pass the filibuster and, at times, unpalatable to moderate Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. Manchin has proposed compromise legislation on voting rights, the Freedom to Vote Act, but even that bill was filibustered by Republicans in October. Manchin on Tuesday met with fellow moderate senators on finding a way forward for the proposals.
While some advocates are specifically pushing for ways around the blockade—like filibuster carve-outs for voting rights—Waters King argues the filibuster should be “totally eliminated.”
“Last year, we saw a lot of relics of white supremacy come down in this country and around the world. And what we all started saying is that this stronghold of this Jim Crow era, relic must come down,” she said of the filibuster.
Waters King also maintains that she sees this push as being about fundamental rights—not partisanship.
“This legacy is not about Martin, Arndrea, and Yolanda. This legacy and what Martin Luther King fought and stood for really is about all of us,” she said. “And it really is up to us to continue in our own unique way that legacy but also to protect and restore all of the gains that were made. And also, in a very real sense, to do our part to continue to be the flames of what’s just and equitable.”