LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Southwest Florida activists say the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd which sparked protests nationwide are signs that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has still not come true. So, it’s up to everyone - no matter your skin tone - to keep his legacy alive.
Images of Dr. King marching more than 60 years ago looks like deja vu. Just last year, people across the U.S. were still marching, still protesting against racial and social injustice.
Martin Byrd, President of the Dunbar Festival Committee organized this year’s King Day Celebration in Fort Myers. He stepped away from the events, to reflect on what this MLK day means.
“The fight will never be over,” he said. “Dr. King said if everybody is not free, none of us are free.”
Dr. King marched during a time when cellphone video didn’t capture injustice and inform the public in real time, like what America saw eight months ago with the death of George Floyd, killed by a Minneapolis police office. Byrd says the video helps in Dr. King’s fight for equality.
“It’s a lot harder to see discrimination and racism. So, if we don’t see it, we assume it’s not there,” said Byrd.
He encourages people to use their platforms to speak out against racism and injustice when they do see it.
“Do what you can on your front, but doing nothing is not acceptable,” he said.
Ellen Hemrick is a leader of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). a group that encourages white people to fight for justice and equality for people of color.
“White people are the people who created the racist systems, and perpetuate them. So, we are integral to dismantling them,” she said.
Hemrick says standing on the sidelines is just as bad as participating in the unequal treatment of black and brown people.
“Unless you’re actively dismantling a racist system, you’re preserving the status quo,” she said.
She added dismantling a racist system may not be going up to racist groups, but could be as simple as speaking out at a local council meeting or educating a family member or friend when they make a derogatory statement.