This year’s AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance is taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city with a rich civil rights history and the northern terminus of the fabled Underground Railroad.
“Cincinnati was the destination for thousands of African-Americans seeking freedom in the 1800s,” said IAM Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux, who led the IAM contingent to the annual MLK observance. “This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary freedom rides, when hundreds of young activists risked life and limb to end segregated travel on interstate buses.”
More than 400 civil rights and human rights activists will take part in this year’s MLK observance activities, which will include speakers, workshops and community service activities. The union members will spend the first full day of the conference providing hands-on help to local charitable and social action groups across Cincinnati.
Additional commemorative events will take place in hundreds of cities and communities across the country. After much opposition, a national holiday celebrating Dr. King’s birthday was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 2, 1983.
Among the challenges facing civil rights activists this year are preserving gains in the wake of the 2010 election and organizing at every level to ensure the fullest level of participation in the 2012 presidential election.
“From efforts by arch-conservatives in Texas trying to rewrite civil rights history in school textbooks, to the rise of birthers and other zealots with racially charged agendas, it’s clear that Dr. King’s work is far from over,” said Babineaux. “It is up to us to pick up and carry on where he left off.”