Today, April 4, marks the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. That he was one of the country's most influential visionary leaders of the last century is beyond doubt. As a Cuban-American that calls Miami home, I didn't often think of Dr. King and all his accomplishments.
It wasn't until my late 20s that I actually took the time to study his work after watching a documentary on his life. What I found was a man that moved a country, and even the world in some instances, with his universal message of peace and social and economic justice. Unfortunately, many people narrowly believe that Dr. King fought just for civil rights or just for dignified treatment of African-Americans alone. In fact, his mission was to fight all forms of inequality -- racial and economic. I think back to when he invoked St. Paul in a sermon to America; he stated:
Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes... God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty.
On the eve and day of his death, Dr. King was peacefully fighting for fair wages for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Today in Miami, we have janitors and security guards fighting the same struggle that those brave men and women fought in 1968. In that sense, I do not for one second believe that Dr. King's vision of America, the richest country on earth, approved of the richest 1% slamming the door on the rest of the country just so that the richest 1% could have more for themselves. Instead, I could imagine MLK standing in solidarity with today's 99%.
As we mark the anniversary of Dr. King's assassination, you could easily replace "America" with "Miami," making his sermon as relevant today as it was 56 years ago. Miami is one of the poorest cities in the country with a wealth gap between rich and poor that may be second to none. Yet even as our homes are vacant and businesses shuttered, our politicians continue to use our tax dollars to contribute to the most -- not the least -- fortunate... the 1%. Whether its free stadiums, major tax write-offs, or just out-in-the open corporate welfare, Miami serves as the perfect example of a city were it's politicians only work for the 1%, while breaking the backs of the 99% and further growing the gap in inequality.
This is truly a tale of two cities, with one name. As you pass by South Beach or high-rise condos of Brickell, you see a Miami full of life with nice cars, clean streets, and expensive restaurants. Then there's the Miami that has my heart, where vecinos help vecinos with a meal because they can't find work, the streets are dirty and every Thursday you see more scrappers looking through piles of trash for the slightest hint of metal scraps just to survive. These are the people who our self-absorbed politicians ignore and we should be finding ways to put back to work.
I think Dr. King was really trying to tell us something when he said: "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." It is great to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by wearing a t-shirt or studying him in history class, but let's live his words and stand up for our families, friends, and neighbors. United, as brothers and sisters, let's tell the 1% that we will no longer stand idle as inequality is perpetuated throughout our city.
Tax day, for many of us, is a day where some pay and others get back what they overpaid. Still, it's the day that symbolizes what we all paid. However for the tax dodging super rich and their greedy corporations, it's the day that they avoid paying their fair share and a day full of playing "the masses" like suckers, while they use what should be tax dollars to enjoy luxury yachts, high-priced cars, and fine wine. Now, don't get me wrong -- almost anybody, including me, would enjoy the life of the 1%, but it cannot come at the expense of ruining others to get there.
No one in Miami values and understands success and hard work more than everyday Miamians, but the corporate welfare crowd didn't get rich by working hard. They got there by taking from the 99%. This tax day, join 1Miami in honoring Dr. King in deed, rather than name, and stand up for our city where people live in "inordinate wealth" while most of us struggle.