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Inauguration Week, MLK Day Galvanize Nationwide Actions for Racial Justice

Auditi Guha

As the nation is on the verge of inaugurating a president who many have called openly racist for his cabinet picks and his campaign rhetoric against marginalized groups, the Movement for Black Lives has mobilized for a #Resist&Reclaim week of direct action.

A young Black activist in August 1963 gave a speech that became a defining moment for the fight for civil rights in America.

Fifty years later, many feel that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been watered down to an apolitical day of service, hardly representative of the civil rights icon who fought for people of color and demanded equality and justice for all.

As the nation is on the verge of inaugurating a president who many have called openly racist for his cabinet picks and his campaign rhetoric against marginalized groups, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) has mobilized for a #Resist&Reclaim “week of direct action rooted in reclaiming [King’s] legacy and commitment to justice, while resisting the oppression, hate and discrimination that is the hallmark of the incoming administration,” according to a press release.

More than 4,000 people from Brooklyn to Portland have pledged to #Reclaim&Resist from January 16-20, according to the M4BL website.

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“Our movement is everywhere,” said Asha Ransby-Sporn, national organizing co-chair of the Black Youth Project 100, in the release. “We are online and on the ground; we are in local communities and national organizations. Because we’re committed to providing ample and diverse opportunities for people to plug in, we’re trying to connect people who engage online with ways they can join us in person.”

As Trump prepares for his inauguration, the M4BL is calling on its collective of immigrant rights, reproductive justice, environmental rights, indigenous rights, Muslim, labor, and youth groups, to take action.

“Just four days after MLK Day, we’ll witness the inauguration of a president who is the antithesis of everything Dr. King stood for; a demagogue who galvanized millions by spewing hate and promising to harm the most vulnerable in this nation,” the M4BL pledge of resistance reads.

“The incoming administration has already proven itself to be xenophobic and racist,” states a Facebook post from Color of Change, a participating organization. “Today, take action to make it clear that racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia will not be tolerated in your neighborhood, in your college, and in your home.”

Ranging from “know your rights” trainings to potlucks, meditation groups, and open mic events, local actions touching on a variety of interests have sprouted up this week, according to the M4BL’s calendar. The actions also include a “Dump Trump” Bay Area rally in San Francisco; a mobilization against “white nationalism” in New York; and a women’s unity march in Memphis.

The M4BL call for action comes at a time when “threats of mass deportation, the dismantling of Obamacare, the registration of Muslims and the criminalization of women’s health, are loud and clear. Black people and other people of color are being targeted by vigilantes, our places of worship are being burned, our children are being attacked at school and the promise of more ‘law and order’ policing leaves us even more vulnerable to police terror,” the M4BL explains on its site.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been tracking the spike in hate-based incidents since the November election, has identified 892 hate groups currently operating in the United States.

After a series of high-profile police shootings, the Justice Department last year sued the City of Ferguson to implement reform and also laid out a plan to collect data on police killings. Meanwhile, a report from Mapping Police Violence indicates that 289 Black people were killed in 2016.

Racial justice advocates have long been discussing protecting workers of color, women, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations from the government’s regressive policies. Efforts have intensified, from a protest last Saturday targeting Trump’s promises for a national stop-and-frisk program, the GOP’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and police brutality, to the highly anticipated Women’s March on Washington on January 21.

Atlanta-based SisterSong will speak out for reproductive justice and is among the hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups registered to be at more than 600 sister marches planned in solidarity worldwide. The Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women includes more than 30 partners, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, and Jobs with Justice.

The country’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), urged Muslims to join the D.C. march and said it will offer signs at its Capitol Hill headquarters, with phrases such as “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” and “Say No to a ‘Muslim Registry,'” according to a press release.

“The historic Women’s March on Washington is an opportunity—and a duty—for American Muslims to demonstrate their support for other communities and for justice and equality,” said Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executive director, in the release.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance and We Belong Together, an immigrant rights’ campaign, will bring 200 domestic workers, immigrant women, and women of color from around the country to join the D.C. march. “Nannies, housecleaners and home care workers on the front lines of opposition to the incoming administration will march to show that fair and dignified care work is not only a women’s issue, but a cornerstone of our democracy,” according to a press release.

Meanwhile, the racial justice project StayWoke has released a “Resistance Manual” to “harness the collective power of the people to resist the impact of a Trump presidency and to continue to make progress in our communities.”

The nationwide calls to action are reminiscent of King’s historic speech five decades ago in which he said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood .… It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”

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