Chicago woman inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. dedicates life to his mission

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When Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated 50 years ago, he was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers seeking living wages and a union. (WLS)

When Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated 50 years ago, he was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers seeking living wages and a union. King was focused on organizing the "Poor People's Campaign," an effort to bring people together across lines of race, religion and region to address poverty.

Now five decades later, one Chicago woman who believes the struggle continues is calling for a revival of King's mission to build a movement to end poverty.

While King's death silenced a mighty voice, his assassination gave birth to a chant for the next generation.

"When I grow up I want to a have a job where people listen, I like to read and I was good at writing. And I wondered, what could I do for a living for people to listen and tell the world what people really need," Deborah Douglas said.

Douglas is the managing editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a non-profit reporting on economic equality.

Douglas was just five months old when King was killed, but the Chicago native, who spent her high school years near Memphis, said she decided at a very young age that his mission and message would inspire her career choice.

"I moved to the south and I was told I wasn't supposed to raise my hand because I was black and a girl, but I had a radical teacher and she told me to always raise my hand, so that was in my DNA," she recalled. "At that point I went around and I was like, I'm going to be a journalist."

Douglas, a Northwestern University professor and former newspaper columnist, has spent the last year working with MLK50 founder and publisher Wendi Thomas, revisiting King's economic themes, profiling companies and policies she said have resulted in poverty and unfair labor practices, something she believes would not have happened if King was alive.

"I think very specifically with Memphis he would have been able to get a lot one with his economic justice if he had lived. Dr. King would say people deserve to have dignity but first you have to have work to do that you have a living wage," she said. "The entire fight for 15 that comes from Dr. King's playlist his agenda his to-do list."

Now, at the commemoration of perhaps one of the most defining moments in American history, many African Americans believe there is still unfinished business. The fight continues, but with the passing of the baton there is a renewed hope and a sense of pride.

"To me to be a black journalist this is my dream. I'm really excited to go home and ask questions and standing in power of my experience and know that I am something," Douglas said.

Douglas will be traveling to Memphis for next week's commemoration.
Related Topics:
societymlk 50th anniversarymartin luther king jreconomyblack history
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