Nearly 47 years ago, Dr. King was assassinated when Black Civil Rights advocates expanded their demand to include economic justice for African Americans. In 2015, the Civil Rights Acts had been passed and state sanctioned segregation was put to an end, but legal equality has hardly changed the material conditions of Black Americans. In Philadelphia, a city with a large Black population, the majority of workers still face low wages, horrible working conditions, and a lower quality of life than white workers.
This year, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, Philadelphia faith institutions, community organizations and unions resolved to reject the sanitized MLK “day of service” and instead uphold Martin Luther King’s true legacy of radical direct action. Moreover, the MLK Day of Resistance, Action and Empowerment (MLK DARE) embraced bold demands for true economic mobility and to improve the quality of life in Black neighborhoods.
The marchers called for an end to racist police practices like stop and frisk, for a civilian police review board with real power, for fair funding and democratic local control of our schools, but critically, the broad MLK DARE alliance emphasized the demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage. In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rev Gregory Holston boldly proclaimed that MLK DARE is “pressuring the city to raise the minimum wage locally to precipitate a legal showdown over” the state’s ban on raising the minimum wage.
In less than a year, the convergence of #BlackLivesMatter and #Fightfor15 has elevated the $15 minimum wage from obscurity to the center of political debate in Philadelphia. Nearly 7,000 residents filled the streets calling for a $15 minimum wage in Philly. Next 15 Now will struggle alongside it’s new allies of faith and labor unions to turn this bold demand into a material reality for working class Philadelphians.
On Martin Luther King, Jr Day we chanted and marched for justice, instead of listening to the lies of washed up establishment politicians. We voiced our demands with the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr, who was slain for suggesting that capitalism was a failed system and demanding that Black people be entitled to a higher quality of life.