Savannah took the initiative back in 1990 and renamed West Broad St. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd to honor the slain civil rights icon.
Although many citizens faced opposition by critics who claimed the renaming would sacrifice the historical prominence of West Broad, local civil rights advocates such as Rev. Bennie Mitchell, Jr. saw the project through, which was 10 years in the making. Savannah honored King again when a group of local youth took a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the MLK memorial and be a part of the MonuMENTAL Experience. They participated in interactive workshops, lunches with distinguished guests and toured the U.S. capital. Now, 32 years after Savannah first honored King, his legacy is still fresh in the minds of today’s youth.
“He is the only African- American that was nearly successful at the equality of his people,” said Asante Harley, 21, a student majoring in business administration technology at Savannah Technical College.
“ I strive to be highly educated and to see my kids on a successful route,” Harley said. “ Just because I know someone already paved the way so I’m taking advantage of it.”
Jessica Martin, 23, a criminal justice major at Tampa Bay, sees King’s legacy as one of determination.
“It means how one brave man himself faced obstacles just to get equal rights for his people. He didn’t stop because things weren’t going the way he wanted to immediately,” Martin said. “ He kept fighting for our people and it paid off.”
Perhaps the best testament of King’s legacy can be summed up in his words.
“Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the South and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence.
“Give us the ballot, and we will transform the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.
Give us the ballot, and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a “Southern Manifesto” because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice.
Give us the ballot, and we will place judges on the benches of the south who will do justly and love mercy, and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the Divine. Give us the ballot, and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May seventeenth, 1954…… We must meet hate with love. We must meet physical force with soul force. There is still a voice crying out through the vista of time, saying: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Then, and only then, can you matriculate into the university of eternal life. That same voice cries out in terms lifted to cosmic proportions: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” And history is replete with the bleached bones of nations that failed to follow this command. We must follow nonviolence and love. Now, I’m not talking about a sentimental, shallow kind of love. I’m not talking about Eros, which is a sort of aesthetic, romantic love. I’m not even talking about philia, which is a sort of intimate affection between personal friends. But I’m talking about agape. I’m talking about the love of God in the hearts of men. I’m talking about a type of love which will cause you to love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. We’ve got to love….. I realize that it will cause restless nights sometimes. It might cause losing a job; it will cause suffering and sacrifice. It might even cause physical death for some. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death , then nothing can be more Christian. Keep going today. Keep moving amid every obstacle. Keep moving amid every mountain of opposition. If you will do that with dignity , when the history books are written in the future, the historians will have to look back and say, “There lived a great people. A people with ‘fleecy locks and black complexion,’ but a people who injected new meaning into the veins of civilization; a people which stood up with dignity and honor and saved Western civilization in her darkest hour; a people that gave new integrity and a new dimension of love to our civilization.” When that happens,
“the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy.” -Excerpt from King’s speech “Give Us The Ballot,”, Washington, D.C., 1957