ATD Ireland hosted an event at the Famine Statues and Poverty Stone in Dublin on Wednesday, April 4th, to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The event, which served to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr King, included a minutes silence at exactly 6:01pm, the moment Martin Luther King was shot by James Earl Ray, as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, 50 years previously. The occasion began at 5:30pm, with songs from the Neighbourhood Youth Project 2, followed by a welcome address from the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheal Mac Donncha.
The Unity in The Community Youth Group were well represented at the event with three members of the leadership team sharing their thoughts on MLK. After speaking to the crowd about the Ireland, I Have a Dream project Maggie Jansen went on to share some inspiring words about the legacy of MLK and the challenges we now face.
“50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. In his life he fought for the poor and for civil rights. He didn’t use any violence. He protested in peace. He brought people together to protest in peace. 50 years ago Martin Luther King got murdered. But his dream survived. His dream of social justice is still alive. His dream of equality for everyone. Today it is on us to fight against poverty. Fight against inequality. Fight for a world where everybody can live in dignity. It’s time to fight for a better world. Now!”
Chloe Gavin then spoke of the relevance of MLKs legacy in the context of the Ireland we live in today. Chloe spoke of the homeless crisis and again encouraged the crowd to continue to use the legacy of MLK as a source of inspiration to tackle not only the homeless crisis but all social inequalities.
“Martin Luther King was a social activist who fought to end discrimination and racial segregation. We still battle for equality for all every day. Just take a walk down O’Connell St and see how many people are without a home. Martin Luther King inspired so many with his courage to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves, this, coupled with his non-violent approach are two of the many reasons why this man will still be remembered 50 years from now.”
Andrew Holohan spoke about his own journey in life and how he is inspired by MLK to dream to live and live to dream!
“The power of one voice has the ability to change lives. I believe God gave us a voice to speak up about things that matter to us. We all have our own stories, our own battles that have made us the people we are today. Personally my life up until a couple of years ago was a mess but I refuse to stay quiet. I’m going to turn that mess into a message of hope not only to change my life but to turn that mess into a message of hope not only to change my life but to change others. Martin Luther King said, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. I say dream to live and live to dream.”
Peter McVerry was the last speaker of the day; he echoed the message of Chloe Gavin in recognising the plight of Irish homeless people who are suffering as a result of the government’s unwillingness to establish a right to housing. Attendees at the gathering were left with this powerful messages sting ringing in their ears.
“The challenge which Martin Luther King’s life and death presents us, whatever land we live in, is to continue the struggle to bring the Promised Land, where everyone, whatever race, religion, colour, sexual orientation, can live a happy and fulfilling life, free from prejudice and discrimination, to bring that Promised Land closer to fulfilment.”