In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation's largest black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, reflects on King's legacy as we continue to demand justice for Robert Champion Jr.
Champion, a gay drum major at Florida A&M, died as a result of a hazing ritual aboard a band bus on Nov. 19, 2011. NBJC is urging the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether his death was a possible hate crime. Our call to action, coming on King's birthday, is tragically timely.
Only two months before Champion's death, Shannon Washington, a basketball standout who had transferred to Florida A&M, was stabbed to death by her girlfriend. Both deaths are unfortunate reminders that we need proactive measures to foster inclusive environments for all students, like NBJC's initiative that seeks to promote LGBT competency at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
"The shape of the world will not permit us the luxury of gradualism and procrastination," King wrote in 1963 about achieving racial justice. "Not only is it immoral, it will not work."
It is with this same sense of urgency that King would summon the LGBT community to act if he were alive today. He would question whether HBCUs are equipped to serve LGBT students who are victims of anti-gay harassment or domestic violence. He would rally young people and administrators to take action before we lose another black life.
Noting that we are inextricably linked through our common humanity and our fight for equality, King stated, "Eventually the civil rights movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation than the eradication of racial injustice. It will have enlarged the concept of brotherhood to a vision of total interrelatedness."
NBJC is calling on both the civil rights and LGBT communities because King's words continue to ring true as we propel this movement forward. We must remind ourselves, like King did, why we cannot wait, why the time to have these conversations and the time to act is now.
In memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sign the petition and urge the Department of Justice to begin an investigation of Robert Champion Jr.'s death today.
Follow Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sharonlettman