How MLK Inspires Interfaith Leaders to Continue the March for Voting Rights

Clergymen in Forefront of the Selma to Montgomery Rights March, 1965. Courtsey of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Pearl Digital Collections.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “would be saying to me and the clergy to carry the dream. You need to keep walking because we have not arrived yet. Keep walking, because I think some of us have sat down and thought that the walk was over. He says to us ‘continue to walk until you make sure that everyone in this community and this society has their rights fulfilled and access to democracy.’ King had a dream, and that dream came with a struggle. You cannot have the dream interpreted and manifested until you continue on this struggle.” 

Imam Mohamed Magid offered these closing remarks at “Why Voting is Sacred: An Interfaith Response to Protecting Our Democracy,” an event that launched “Vote is Sacred,” an emerging IFYC initiative and call to action focusing on civic engagement to end voter suppression. Magid was one of several interfaith leaders that served as panelists for this enriching conversation. The other featured panelists were the Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, President of Sojourners; Rabbi Sandra Lawson, Director of Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Reconstructing Judaism; Simran Jeet Singh, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Inclusive America Project; and Vanessa Gomez Brake, Humanist Chaplain and Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California.  

The group of distinguished thought leaders delved into the significance of voting to their worldview or faith tradition. “We must vote, and we must fight for the rights of minorities and vulnerable people in this country who have been deprived from their rights to vote. You know, voting is about sharing the power... and the power should be in the hands of people,” Magid said.  

As we reflect on the wisdom and sacrifice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the panelist’s words echo several of King’s statements on voting: 

“There must be a change. There will be a change. For to deny a person the right to exercise his political freedom at the polls is no less a dastardly act as to deny a Christian the right to petition God in prayer.” 

“Voting is the foundation stone for political action.” 

"So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others." 

“I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting. They won’t let the majority senators vote. And certainly, they wouldn’t want the majority of people to vote, because they know they do not represent the majority of the American people. In fact, they represent, in their own states, a very small majority.”  

There are not enough words to encompass the impact of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. The life of King influences IFYC’s goals for “Vote is Sacred,” with a team of interfaith leaders inspired by countless moments of his life such as the partnership with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Selma Voting Rights Campaign. Dr. King had an unwavering commitment to voter rights for all; this cultural moment and its efforts towards progress are the result of sacrifice by those who came before us.  

Today, the fight continues, “If we’re really talking about celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., voting rights was a cornerstone of his legacy … we cannot simply in good faith celebrate him or celebrate that legacy with this current attack on access to the ballot box,” King’s daughter-in-law, Arndrea Waters King, said recently. To actualize this, members of the Rev. King’s family will gather alongside others for the “Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action.” As we reflect upon the words from leaders both past and present, it is abundantly clear that voter rights must be protected at all costs. The future of our democracy and progress is contingent upon it.  

 

#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org.

 

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.