How Stevie Wonder Helped Create Martin Luther King Day



Stevie Wonder’s song, Happy Birthday, was one of the forces responsible for rallying support to make Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a national holiday. This is a very important part of history that is sometimes overlooked. Art has often influenced political change. There were many people who fought alongside Martin, including artists, even after his death. I’d like to remember other social activists of that time, and some who came after. When I think of Martin, I think of many names including: EL HAJJ MALIK EL SHABBAZZ MALCOLM X CORETTA SCOTT KING MARTIN DELANEY LORRAINE V HANSBERRY NAT KING COLE CONSTANCE BAKER MOTLEY ROY WILKINS W.E.B. DUBOIS FRANTZ FANON JAMES FORMAN ELIJAH MUHAMMAD RICHARD WRIGHT RAY CHARLES JACKIE ROBINSON HARRY BELAFONTE ASA PHILIP RANDOLPH WHITNEY YOUNG JR JAMES B PARSONS OTIS M SMITH JAMES H MEREDITH KENNETH B CLARK FRED SHUTTLESWORTH MEDGAR W EVERS ROBERT C WEAVER LENA HORNE JAMES BALDWIN EDWARD J DWIGHT JR MUHAMMAD ALI BILL COSBY EDWARD KENNEDY DUKE ELLINGTON KWAME TURE STOKELY CARMICHAEL ARETHA FRANKLIN LANGSTON HUGHES JAMIL ABDULLAH AL AMIN H RAP BROWN THURGOOD MARSHALL GIL SCOTT HERON ELLA FITZGERALD ROBERT NESTA BOB MARLEY and finally, MARCUS GARVEY, who came before this time, but inspired every Black freedom fighter of the 20th Century. The story of this 3rd Monday in January, is very deep. So start digging! The answers can empower you. I am sure you have many other names to add to this list. Ase (Yoruba for, “it is so”)!

“If you are going to speak to the people, you gotta be the people.” –Chuck D

On December 12, 1963, two very important books were published:  Why We Can’t Wait, by Dr. King, and The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, a Martinique-born psychiatrist. Both books made history. King’s book came about from his Letter from Birmingham Jail, written on April 16, 1963, and Fanon’s book was known as “the Bible of the oppressed.” These are books that every activists or American of African descent should read. They are enlightening and uplifting and help to pave the way. They are relevant to this day, this hour, and this moment.


Lastly, across the world, a lot of us attended MLK programs today. I really hope that we all took the time out to listen to the messages and reflect on our history. I’ve noticed that when I attend events, fewer people are concerned about internalizing the messages and taking notes so that we can create plans and blueprints. It seems that it is more about recording videos and taking pictures/selfies and posting them to social media networks, and less about actively participating in the MOMENT. Listening and engaging is becoming a lost art. I truly heart the idea of clandestine behavior as a method to organizing for change; and I support Gil Scott-Heron’s notion that the REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. We should try engaging on a different level. That means that we can’t give it all away, by attempting to share every move that we make. Mystery is a lost art as well. We must focus on what’s in our faces. We cannot possibly be performing at our best, holding phones, trying to document ourselves at every event. That job is for videographers and photographers. Let us play our part, by actively listening. No one needs to know that you were there, you know, and that is most important. Let’s think deeply, study, and plan:

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
Brothers on the instant replay

There will be no pictures of Whitney Young
Being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy Wilkins
Strolling through Watts in a red, black and green
Liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion  -Gil Scott-Heron

Peace and love,

OSiRis RiSinG