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Thank You Coretta Scott-King, Racial and Social Justice Activist

Jan. 21, 2019 is the National Martin Luther King Day, a time when all sorts of events, marches and day of service activities occur to commemorate the contributions of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a young college student, I recall marching in freezing cold in Washington, DC to advocate for the national holiday. Today, as I reflect on America and MLK’s legacy, I think about honoring King and Coretta Scott-King.

Martin was murdered as he prepared to march in Memphis with sanitation workers who were striking for fair and equal wages. Just 4 days after her husband’s murder, Scott-King flew to Memphis to complete the assignment. She understood the importance of continuing her husband’s legacy and the fight for civil rights. She believed the best way to keep the dream alive was to continue her own legacy as an activist.

She helped lead the Poor People’s Campaign conceived by MLK to force America to confront realities of poverty. Scott-King rallied protesters and declared a dream of her own; that all of God’s children deserved decent housing, education and enough income for their families to live with grace and liberty, free of poverty. She advocated for gay rights and she joined the fight to end apartheid in South Africa; joining others who were arrested for protesting. Scott-King is on my mind today and I want to lift her name and the name of other women whom she acknowledged. “I am an activist. Women have been the backbone of the whole civil rights movement”, Coretta Scott-King said in an interview for New Lady magazine.

Women like Rosa Parks, NAACP’s Ella Baker, SNCC’s Diane Nash and Fannie Lou Hamer put their lives on the line for the civil rights movement for racial and economic equality. According to Jeanne Theoharris, author of a biography on Rosa Parks, Scott-King said, “true freedom is more than a seat on the bus; it is about addressing economic disparities, racial and gender inequalities in America.”

Government’s role and responsibility is to educate the public and provide opportunities for citizens to engage in creative solutions. The NC Status of Women Report on Employment and Earnings released by the NC Council for Women in June 2018 provides the facts and recommendations for policy changes. NC has made progress, but women will not see pay equity until 2060 at the current rate. Closing the wage gap would end poverty for thousands of women and families. Poverty robs children of opportunities, robs women and men across America of living to their full potential. Scott-King and Martin Luther King deserve our respect, but most importantly, I believe, our duty is to continue their fight for justice and for economic equality.

Mary Williams-Stover

Executive Director, NC Council for Women and Youth Involvement