Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Dr. King and the holiday set to observe him and his work, OKT is reposting the below from Democracy Now!

SPECIAL: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in His Own Words

mlk_riversideLink to video

AMY GOODMAN: Today is a federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born January 15th, 1929. He was assassinated April 4th, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old.

While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor, organizing the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. And Dr. King was a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War.

“Beyond Vietnam” was the speech he delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. In it, Dr. King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Life magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” The Washington Post said King, quote, “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people,” unquote. Well, today we let you decide. We play an excerpt of Dr. King’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam.”

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: After 1954, they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over the united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreements concerning foreign troops. And they remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South, until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than 8,000 miles away from its shores.

At this point, I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else, for it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after the short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long, they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America, who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: “Each day the war goes on, the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism,” unquote.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war and set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing — part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under the new regime, which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary.

Meanwhile — meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task: While we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment, we must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now, there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality — and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing clergy and laymen concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. So such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past 10 years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression, which has now justified the presence of U.S. military “advisers” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago, he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin — we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King, April 4th, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York, explaining why he opposed the war in Vietnam. We’ll come back to his speech in a minute.

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AMY GOODMAN: Mahalia Jackson, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam.” He gave this speech April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated. He was speaking at Riverside Church in New York.

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism. With this powerful commitment, we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means, in the final analysis, that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft-misunderstood, this oft-misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man.

When I speak of love, I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response, I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I’m speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says, “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word,” unquote.

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam writes, “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 4th, 1967, speaking at Riverside Church in New York, explaining why he opposed the war in Vietnam, the speech he delivered exactly a year to the day before he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, April 4th, 1968. The night before he died, Dr. King delivered his last major address. He was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers as he built momentum for a Poor People’s March on Washington. This is some of Dr. King’s last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt, and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through — or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire, and I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his 95 theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863 and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the early ’30s and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation and come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But I wouldn’t stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”

Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land, confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the 20th century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: “We want to be free!”

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that he’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember — I can remember when Negroes were just going around, as Ralph has said, so often scratching where they didn’t itch and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — we are saying that we are God’s children. And if we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 3rd, 1968, the night before he was assassinated. We’ll come back to this speech in Memphis, Tennessee, in a minute.

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AMY GOODMAN: Nina Simone singing “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead).” This is_Democracy Now!_, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech the night before he was assassinated. It was April 3rd, 1968, a rainy night in Memphis, Tennessee.

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth. And they did come. But we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”

Bull Connor next would say, “Turn the fire hoses on.” And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn’t know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn’t relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist and some others, we had been sprinkled. But we knew water. That couldn’t stop us.

And we just went on before the dogs, and we would look at them; and we’d go on before the water hoses, and we would look at it. And we’d just go on singing, “Over my head I see freedom in the air.” And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, “Take ’em off.” And they did. And we would just go on in the paddy wagon singing, “We Shall Overcome.” And every now and then we’d get in jail, and we’d see the jailers looking through the windows, being moved by our prayers and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn’t adjust to, and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham.

Now let me say, as I move to my conclusion, that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school, be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base. Now, that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air and placed it on the dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now, you know we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that “One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body 24 hours before the ceremony.” And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem — or down to Jericho, rather, to organize a Jericho Road Improvement Association. That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1,200 miles — or rather 1,200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, 15 or 20 minutes later, you’re about 2,200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And, you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking, and he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight, not “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job?” not “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it, I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the x-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood; that’s the end of you.

It came out in The New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheelchair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the president and the vice president. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I had received a visit and a letter from the governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth grade student at the White Plains High School.” And she said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze, because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in interstate travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed — if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation and brought into being the civil rights bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

And they were telling me — now, it doesn’t matter now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked and to be sure that nothing would be wrong on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully, and we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats or talk about the threats that were out, of what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers. Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Martin Luther King, speaking April 3rd, 1968. Within 24 hours, he would be dead, assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, April 4th, 1968. Today is the federal holiday that honors him.

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Jail task force offers up major improvements

Michigan League for Public Policy urges Legislature to follow through

downloadDiverse, bipartisan group seeks to improve jail system to better serve all, reduce burden on people with lower incomes

The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration’s recommendations announced today. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“Our current jail system’s overemphasis on fines and fees—and severe imbalance and punishment for those who can’t afford them—is creating a modern-day debtors’ prison where people with lower incomes receive harsher penalties than people with money. This area of our justice system has sadly become more focused on public profits than public safety and the punishment often fits the pocketbook more than the crime. But the jail task force’s recommendations released today seek to change that, and the League wholeheartedly supports these recommendations.

“With the Legislature’s proven, bipartisan appetite for justice reform illustrated over the past year, we are optimistic that lawmakers will continue that momentum and take these suggestions to heart. This task force was conscientious of diversity in every regard, including experiences and perspectives, and with representatives from every angle of the jail system involved, this report stands to be a good area of common-sense reform and bipartisan agreement that is needed to start the new year off right.”

The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration’s policy recommendations are:

Traffic violations: Stop suspending and revoking licenses for actions unrelated to safe driving. Reclassify most traffic offenses and some other minor misdemeanors as civil rather than criminal infractions.

Arrest: Expand officer discretion to use appearance tickets as an alternative to arrest and jail. Reduce the use of arrest warrants to enforce court appearance and payments, and establish a statewide initiative to resolve new warrants and recall very old ones.

Behavioral health diversion: Provide crisis response training for law enforcement and incentivize programs and partnerships between law enforcement and treatment providers to divert people with behavioral health needs from the justice system pre- and post-arrest.

The first 24 hours after arrest: Release people jailed on certain charges pre-arraignment and guarantee appearance before a judicial officer within 24-48 hours for anyone still detained.

Pretrial release and detention: Strengthen the presumption of release on personal recognizance and set higher thresholds for imposing non-financial and financial conditions. Provide a detention hearing for all defendants still detained 48 hours after arraignment.

Speedy trial: Require defendants to be tried within 18 months of arrest and preserve speedy trial rights unless waived by the defendant.

Alternatives to jail sentences: Presumptively impose sentences other than jail for non-serious misdemeanors and for felonies marked for “intermediate sanctions” under the sentencing guidelines.

Probation and parole: Shorten maximum probation terms for most felonies, establish new caps on jail time for technical violations, and streamline the process for those in compliance to earn early discharge.

Financial barriers to compliance: Reduce fine amounts for civil infractions. Require criminal courts to determine ability to pay fines and fees at sentencing and to modify unaffordable obligations. Repeal the law authorizing sheriffs to bill people for their own incarceration.

Victim services: Invest significant resources in victim services and strengthen protection order practices.

Data collection: Standardize criminal justice data collection and reporting across the state.

Citizen initiative would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people

Reposted from Fair and Equal Michigan

Business, political and philanthropic leaders join LGBTQ advocacy groups to proclaim: Every Michigander should have an equal chance to succeed

Fair-and-Equal-Michigan-Proposed-Petition-for-Initiation-of-Legislation-Feb-7-2020-1024x622A growing committee of Michigan citizens submitted petition language today to the Board of State Canvassers seeking to initiate legislation amending the state’s current civil rights law  the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act. The proposed initiative would clarify that the Act’s existing prohibitions on discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of civil rights prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. The petition submitted today by Fair and Equal Michigan, a Michigan ballot question committee, starts the process to amend the Act.

Non-partisan Michigan pollster Richard Czuba conducted a statewide survey of 600 registered voters that shows 77.5 percent of likely 2020 Michigan General Election voters support legislation to amend the state’s civil rights law to protect LGBTQ people (66 percent strongly support). Conversely, 16.5 percent do not support. By a margin of 77-17 percent, voters say they would support a citizen initiative to bypass the legislature and put the issue to a vote of the people — including 75 percent of leaning GOP voters and 66 percent of strong Republican voters.

“When I co-sponsored Michigan’s Civil Rights Act in 1973 with Rep. Daisy Elliott, it was about treating everybody equally, especially in employment, housing and our most basic of services; it is long past the time to recognize sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Hon. Mel Larsen, former Member, Michigan House of Representatives. “The legislature can act at any time to amend the Civil Rights Act. This coalition of Michigan citizens has support across LGBTQ groups, the business and philanthropic sectors, and both sides of the political aisle. There is more that brings us together – than forces us apart.”

“Business leaders know that to stay competitive we need to support the people we employ, and that means making clear that there is no place for discrimination in the workplace,” said Jerry Norcia, President and Chief Executive Officer, DTE Energy. “Today’s top job creators are looking to grow in states and communities that are welcoming to everyone. If Michigan wants to compete, we must take a clear stand against discrimination in any form. This effort strengthens Michigan business, our economy and our people.”

“Dow has called Michigan home for more than 120 years, and we are proud to bring top talent here from around the world,” said Jim Fitterling, Chief Executive Officer, Dow. “For Michigan to continue to compete and win globally, and for Dow to continue to innovate in the state, we must be able to recruit and retain the best talent. A fully inclusive community for everyone that lives in Michigan is imperative for all of us to continue effectively doing business in our great state.”

“Discrimination runs contrary to our most basic of American values,” said Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer, Apple. “By protecting every person from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, we can help make sure that every person is measured by their talents and creativity and is treated with the dignity and respect that is due to all.”

“Advancing the fair treatment of all people – regardless of their race, religion, disability, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity – is a key component of retaining and growing a world-class, talented workforce,” said Patti Poppe, President and Chief Executive Officer, Consumers Energy. “To stay competitive in today’s economy, we need to be bold in our efforts to make our communities more welcoming to all. And efforts to expand Elliott-Larsen is also the right thing to do for our companies, our customers and Michigan.”

“Few people know that in 1972 East Lansing was the first city in the United States to ban discrimination in hiring on account of homosexuality. Nearly five decades later, it’s time we update our laws to be more inclusive and ensure no person, including the LGBTQ community, should fear losing their job or be denied services or housing because of who they are,” said Andi Owen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Herman Miller. “This proposal gives everyone the same chance to succeed so that Michigan can be a more attractive, vibrant and thriving place to live, work, and raise a family.”

“Solidarity is for all of us, and that’s why for the last 40 years, the AFL-CIO has supported adding protections for the LGBTQ community to federal law. Just last year, the Michigan AFL-CIO reaffirmed our support for amending state law to include these protections as well,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We stand against any form of discrimination in the workplace or in the community — no one should be fired or discriminated against because of who they are or who they love. We are dedicated to fighting for a Michigan that’s open and welcoming to all.”

“As the first CEO to offer Congressional testimony on eliminating LGBT workplace discrimination back in 1997, I thought this would be the law of the land by now,” said Raymond Smith, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bell Atlantic, now Verizon Communications. “As I said to Congress then and still believe today: No company can afford to waste the talents and contributions of valuable employees as we compete in a global marketplace. It is good business, and it is good citizenship.”

“Throughout Michigan’s history, Michiganders have believed that if you work hard everyone should be given the same right to succeed,” said Mark Bernstein, President and Managing Partner of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, PLLC, Regent of the University of Michigan, and former Member, Michigan Civil Rights Commission. “This proposal reflects Michigan’s values that every individual, no matter their sexual orientation and gender identity, deserves respect and dignity.”

“At Whirlpool, we are proud to be one of the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have taken steps to enact policies to prohibit discrimination for LGBTQ employees,” said Jeff Noel, Corporate Vice President at Whirlpool Corporation. “We strive to create an internal workplace culture that allows and encourages its personnel to bring their full selves to work. This means an open, supportive, and inclusive environment where it is possible for LGBTQ employees to feel welcomed.”

“Every Michigander should have an equal chance at success, without threat of being fired, harassed, or demoted just because the boss doesn’t like that they’re gay or transgender,” said Trevor Thomas, Co-Chair and President of Fair and Equal Michigan and Board Chair for Equality Michigan Action, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group. “After waiting 37 years, this effort gives the legislature eight additional months to pass these basic human rights. If they can’t get the job done, our Constitution affords Michiganders the right to vote to ensure that workers are judged on the job they do, not who they are or who they love.”

“Oftentimes in the LGBTQ community we see harm, violence, murder, and discrimination justified through religious bias, but I believe that God has love, grace and mercy sufficient for us all,” said Jeynce Poindexter, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; LGBTQ Community Advocate and Activist. “It’s important for all of us to come together, not with our politics but with and for people to move this work forward and finally right this wrong.”

“Michigan has the unique opportunity to change and save lives by expanding the state’s non-discrimination law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation,” said Alanna Maguire, Co-Chair of Fair and Equal Michigan, and President of Fair Michigan, a statewide LGBTQ and women’s advocacy group. “It is my hope and expectation that by banning this kind of discrimination, all Michiganders can lead safer, more productive lives, and our state will be made better for it.”

“Michigan lawmakers have long been asked to protect LGBTQ individuals from job and housing discrimination for decades, ever since the first legislation was introduced in 1983,” said Dr. Mira Jourdan, Co-Chair of Fair and Equal Michigan and a Neuropsychologist. “This proposal would simply add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to existing Civil Rights law to make sure LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination, under the law, just like everyone else. It is time to finally right this wrong once and for all.”

Honorary Leadership Committee (still growing):

Dr. Mira Jourdan, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan, Neuropsychologist

Alanna Maguire, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; President, Fair Michigan Foundation

Jeynce Poindexter, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; LGBTQ Community Activist

Trevor Thomas, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; Board Chair, Equality Michigan Action

Julisa Abad, Director of Trans Advocacy, Fair Michigan

Tonya Allen, Philanthropic Leader in SE Michigan

Tommy Allen, Publisher, Rapid Growth Media; President, Grand Rapids Pride Center; &

Chair, Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission

Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, NAACP Detroit Branch

Diane Antishin, Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, DTE Energy

Susy Avery, former chair, Michigan Republican Party

Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D., Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, Grand Valley State University

Mark Bernstein, President, The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, PLLC

Rabbi Amy B. Bigman, Congregation Shaarey Zedek

Randy Block, partner to Gerry Crane

Charity Dean, Director of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity, City of Detroit; & Commissioner, Michigan Women’s Commission

Brandon Dillon, former Chair, Michigan Democratic Party

Katie Rogala Fahey

Rev. Leslee Fritz, Albion First United Methodist, former Dep. Dir. of the Dept. of Civil Rights

Hon. Tracy Hall, Kalamazoo County Commissioner and Board Member, OutFront Kalamazoo

Brandon Hofmeister, Senior Vice President, Consumers Energy

Hon. Derek Dobies, Chief of Staff, Michigan AFL-CIO and Mayor of Jackson

Rick Johnson, former Michigan Speaker of the House, 2001 – 2004

Hon. Erin Knott, Executive Director, Equality Michigan Education Fund & Action Network and Mayor Pro-Tem of Kalamazoo

Hon. Mel Larsen, former Member, Michigan House of Representatives and co-sponsor of Michigan’s Civil Rights Act of 1976

Leander LeSure, Executive Vice President, Herman Miller

Richard McLellan, Transition Chairman to Governor John Engler

Ronald Moore, Board Member, Equality Michigan & Equality Federation

Hon. Jason Morgan, Chairman, Washtenaw County Commission

Noreen K. Myers, Employment Attorney, Noreen K. Myers PLC

Chuck Otis, Board Member, Equality Michigan

Travis Radina, President, Jim Toy Community Center and LGBTQ Liasion, Mayor of Ann Arbor

Lilianna Reyes, LGBTQ Advocate

Hon. Andy Schor, Mayor of Lansing

Hon. Joe Schwarz, former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

Angela Thompkins, former Assistant Prosecutor, City of Detroit

Cynthia L. Thornton, President, Pride at Work Michigan and General Board Member, Michigan AFL-CIO

Jim Toy, Co-Founder of the Spectrum Center

Selma Tucker, Vice President, Public Sector Consultants

Louis Vega, President, Dow North America

The Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act was passed in 1976 to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign is the next evolution of Michigan’s support for the LGBTQ community. Until 2018, Michigan had barred the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from taking calls reporting discrimination to their hotline. The Commission now is reviewing cases of reported discrimination. Meanwhile, Equality Michigan’s hotline reported 1,000+ calls for help in the past four years.

Once the petition is approved by the Board of State Canvassers, Fair and Equal Michigan has until May 27, 2020, to submit petitions including the signatures of at least 340,047 Michigan voters. Once enough valid signatures are submitted, the Michigan Legislature will have 40 days to adopt the proposed amendments to the Act without change. If the Legislature does not Act, or rejects the proposal, it is submitted to Michigan voters for approval at the November 3, 2020, General Election. According to research by the non-partisan Glengariff Group, 77 percent of voters support the measure.

Michigan wastes massive amounts of food.

Here’s how it can be rescued to improve people’s health.

Reposted from Second Wave-Michigan State of Health Series

harvest-7_(custom).jpg

Food Rescue US reports that over 50 million Americans are food insecure, while over 40 billion meals are wasted each year — and 40% of the U.S. food supply rots in landfills. The solution is obvious: deliver this food to people who need it instead of to the dump. Food rescue operations in Michigan are doing their best to make that happen – and positively affecting public health in the process.

According to a Centers for Disease Control report, A Public Health Opportunity Found in Food Waste, “The United States has an epidemic of food insecurity and obesity that coexists in the same population (low-income families on a budget). Moreover, fruits and vegetables, which are linked to improving health and preventing chronic disease, are also perishable and commonly wasted.”

Obesity and the chronic diseases associated with it — diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, sleep apnea, and some cancers — are only a few of the medical issues resulting from poor nutrition. Behavioral health issues can take root in a poor diet, too. And as housing, childcare, and transportation costs viciously outpace wages, more and more working families are finding themselves without the means to provide good food for their families.

Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest, a food rescue organization serving Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, says the need for emergency food is increasing despite improvements in state employment numbers. A lot of working people live paycheck to paycheck, and any life crisis can put them in a vulnerable situation that forces them to choose between buying food and paying the rent.

“Inflation has outpaced wages for decades, so people struggle to keep up,” Mayes says. “It’s more difficult for the average family to keep pace with rising expenses.”

Emergency food can provide those families a way to get their health back on track.

angie.jpgGood food = good health

Samantha McKenzie is president and CEO of Hidden Harvest, another Michigan food rescue serving the Bay, Midland, and Saginaw region.

“All of our food pantries say that they are getting more and more people who have never been to a pantry before,” she says. “We take a resource that already exists and make sure it gets put on the dinner table instead of in the garbage bin. Our donors don’t want to throw away good food. They feel real positive about where it’s going and we’re happy to share it.”

In 2018, 300 donors gave Hidden Harvest 2.5 million pounds of food — about 200,000 pounds a month. Hidden Harvest delivers the rescued food to 170 nonprofits including soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and youth programs.

oranges.jpgHidden Harvest’s food rescue efforts directly integrate good nutrition into the healthcare system through donations to substance abuse rehab centers, where food donations free up funds for treatment options; and health clinics like Saginaw’s Hearth Home, which treats people living with HIV and AIDS.

“They need items high in protein and rich in vitamins and nutrients. We direct these foods their way as it helps their medications to be more effective,” McKenzie says. “Fresh produce is a proven cancer preventative. There are many positive reasons why good health depends on having a well-rounded diet.”

Forgotten Harvest’s 30 refrigerated trucks glean food from 400 partners at 800 locations — grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers growing food in Macomb County and Ontario, Canada. The nonprofit also grows food on 100 acres of land in Fenton.

“If we’re giving them corn, it’s probably an ear,” Mayes says. “If it’s green beans, it’s a bunch, not a can. We’re one small part of the set of things people got to do to be healthy.”

Because the operation specifically takes in food that no longer meets retail specs, nutrient-rich perishables like dairy products and meats are in abundance. From its warehouse in Oak Park, the full-time drivers deliver to more than 250 pantries, churches, community centers, and community-based organizations with food-related missions.

“We see a little bit of everything,” Mayes says. “There is no shortage of variety in the things we come across.”

Grocery stores do their part

Kroger, ALDI, Trader Joe’s, and Meijer are among the many Michigan retailers who operate robust food rescue operations. Michigan-based Meijer’s effort began with 29 stores in southeast Michigan in 2008. Now all 235 of its stores rescue food, and they donated over 10.6 million pounds in 2018.

Many of Michigan’s smaller retailers take part in food rescue too. Busch’s Fresh Food Markets, a 15-store independent grocery chain headquartered in Washtenaw County, partners with Washtenaw County-based food rescue nonprofit Food Gatherers, as does the single-location People’s Food Co-op of Ann Arbor.

sausgae.jpgThe Co-op rescues about 200 pounds of food a month, not as an afterthought but to support its primary goal of promoting health and economic justice. Its donations include fresh produce and dairy products, as well as canned and boxed goods.

“We actually have a bunch of different reasons for rescuing food,” says Angie Voiles, Peoples Food Co-op general manager. “Through our commitment to the triple bottom line, it is environmentally sustainable to rescue and donate food instead of putting it into a landfill. From a social justice perspective, the co-op was founded and continues to strive to provide access to healthy food throughout the entirety of our community, at the retail level and also through food rescue.”

Voiles says her own health improved after switching to a whole foods diet. She believes that confirms research that has found eating fresh produce and less-processed foods contributes to improved physical and mental health.

“We want to get healthy, whole foods into the hands of as many people as possible,” she says.

Silver linings, logistics, and a long way to go

Rescued food can include much more than grocery store items nearing a sell-by date. Shipping or packaging errors, or failure to reach other specifications that have nothing to do with quality, can turn perfectly good food into waste. Mayes says well over 75 billion pounds of food is classified as waste in the U.S. every year.

In addition to helping more Michiganders be healthy, food rescue helps donor businesses by reducing disposal costs and providing tax breaks. It also helps the environment by diverting food waste from the landfill to the table.

“You never know when there’s going to be a truck accident, a shipment that a shipping company doesn’t know what to do with, weddings cancelled because of soap-opera stuff, a catering company doing an outdoor event in terrible weather, or a funeral dinner with leftovers,” McKenzie says. “We put it to good use. There’s always a silver lining.”

However, food rescue efforts are making only a small dent in the vast amounts of food waste. Feeding America, one of the country’s largest food rescue organizations, reports having rescued just 3.5 billion of the 72 billion pounds of food wasted last year in the U.S.

Experts from the state’s food industry, healthcare systems, government, and nonprofit sectors need to forge even more successful collaborations to ensure that healthy foods are not thrown away, but instead made readily available to all Michigan residents, starting with children and those experiencing chronic illness.

“Food insecurity is unfortunately a problem that is prevalent in almost every underserved and middle-class community in America,” Mayes says. “The volume of food rescue food puts us in a place where addressing hunger is no longer a food problem. It’s a logistics problem.”

A freelance writer and editor, Estelle Slootmaker is happiest writing about social justice, wellness, and the arts. She is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media, communications manager for Our Kitchen Table, and chairs The Tree Amigos, City of Wyoming Tree Commission. Her finest accomplishment is her five amazing adult children. You can contact Estelle at Estelle.Slootmaker@gmail.com or www.constellations.biz.

Hidden Harvest photos by Ben Tierney. Angie Voiles photo courtesy of Ken Davis.

 

Heart of West Michigan United Way shares post about OKT Program for Growth

Reposted from Heart of West Michigan United Way Success Stories

OUR KITCHEN TABLE CULTIVATES FOOD JUSTICE

Driver’s licenses for all would make health, economic, and community impacts

Michigan-Drivers-License-for-All_840x480Lack of transportation is a social determinant that directly impacts health by limiting access to healthy food and medical care.  It also makes it hard to keep a job. According to a report released today from the Michigan League for Public Policy restoring driver’s licenses for undocumented Michiganders would also bring the State $100 million in new revenue over 10 years. Here’s what a 12/19.2019 MLPP media release shared:

State law allowed undocumented residents to receive driver’s licenses until 2008, and the new information from the League reinforces the far-reaching benefits of renewing that policy. The Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy) legislation would allow state driver’s licenses for all residents, and the bills were introduced in November by Sens. Stephanie Chang and Winnie Brinks and Reps. Alex Garza and Rachel Hood.

“The economic impact is important, but what we’re really talking about here is belonging. We’re talking about parents being able to take their kids to the doctor, to visit grandma, to get to school events. We’re talking about the fact that everyone living in Michigan should have an identity,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

If the Drive SAFE bills pass, an estimated 55,000 Michigan residents would pass driver’s tests and become licensed, leading to 20,000 vehicle purchases. Fees, registration and taxes from those two factors alone would result in $12 million in annual recurring revenue for the state. This does not take into account the positive impacts on local economies.
“Access to a driver’s license affects the amount of money people earn and spend. It’s imperfect, but it’s a fact: Being a Michigander often means being dependent on cars. When people can get to and from their jobs, they’re able to work more hours and earn more money. They’re able to expand the number of places they can shop and increase the amount of money they spend,” Jacobs said.

With 20,000 more Michigan drivers becoming insured and passing driver’s tests, roads will be safer and accidents resolved more quickly. The Drive SAFE bills would also lead to reduced auto insurance premiums.

Dozens of statewide organizations including the Michigan Farm Bureau, the ACLU of Michigan, the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Nurses Association support the Drive SAFE bills, and the Washtenaw, Oakland and Kalamazoo county commissions have passed resolutions in support of driver’s licenses for all. If the bills pass, Michigan will join 14 other states that provide access to a driver’s license or ID, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A 15th state, New Jersey, passed legislation yesterday that will allow immigrants without legal status to get a driver’s license, which is expected to be signed into law.