Betty Claiborne

The Rev. Betty Claiborne speaks during a joint meeting of BREC Planning and Park Resources Advisory and Recreation and Special Facilities Advisory committees on July 16 2016, at BREC Headquarters.

On Monday, many will be celebrating another holiday commemorating the incredible but short life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

There will be television shows, marches in the streets, church programs and music — all in an effort to show the legacy of a man assassinated by a rifle and hate, just because he had the audacity to fight for people of color to receive the rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

Social media will be ablaze with information, photos and videos extolling the virtues of one of the greatest civil rights leaders this country has known. Yes, it is a holiday that is well deserved.

Look closely as Monday fades from sunlight to moonlight. TV news will be marking the end of the celebration. Folks will return home and by 10 p.m., poof, whatever was of MLK’s spirit will disappear into the night and will be put away like Christmas decorations.

All the marching hand-in-hand in the streets, and the roaring speeches — a few more bombastic than substantive — and the singing of “We Shall Overcome,” will disappear into the ether. And, just like that Martin Luther King and the spirit of civil rights will be mothballed until, say, next year.

The true celebration of Martin Luther King starts on Tuesday and the following days and months. That’s when teachers and preachers, parents and others can find time to talk about the seldom-mentioned soldiers of the civil rights movement who walked the dusty and often deadly roads of the rural South asking for equality.

What’s important now is what people do on Tuesday to fight against racism and sexism, and to seek understanding from those who believe that only their religious beliefs should rule every person in America.

It’s after Monday that we must continue to teach our children in schools about a man who believed enough in what he was doing that he was willing to be the very embodiment of a dead man walking.

There were so many more involved in the same movement who survived attacks for helping in things like voter registration drives or just fighting to have at least 90 percent of the rights of the larger population.

That was evident recently in Baton Rouge, as the life of Betty Claiborne was celebrated. She and her sister, Pearl George, once tried to integrate a public swimming pool. Claiborne went to jail for nearly two weeks. George would become the first African American woman elected to the Metro Council of East Baton Rouge Parish.

The city took taxpayer dollars from everyone and essentially said a certain group of people didn’t deserve to swim in the pools their tax money funded.

What Claiborne, George and others risked fit perfectly King’s quote: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our souls when we look the other way.”

In the coming days when folks are sloshing around in the political muck both here and nationally, teachers and preachers could teach the value of another King quote: “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”

Imagine politicians abiding by the last 8 words of that quote

But most of all, there is a King quote that should inspire our young people because it reaches out to both the least of us, as well as the best of us.

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace …”

Would it be so bad to continue King’s teaching over the rest of the year? Let’s do it.

Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column at

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