Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus marked the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday with a visit to Ferguson, Mo., to vow that criminal justice reform will be the “centerpiece” of their agenda this Congress.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the CBC, told the gathering at Wellspring United Methodist Church that King’s “vision and leadership and bold obstruction to the status quo embarrassed this nation and forced a change to civil rights and voting rights laws.”
“But nearly two years ago, the Voting Rights Act, which turns 50 this year, was severely wounded by the Supreme Court when the preclearance section was made unenforceable. In its decision, the Supreme Court called on Congress to adjust the formula used in deciding which states should pre-clear election changes. Just last week, Republican House Members announced they have no intentions of doing so. This means Dr. King’s work — our work — continues,” the congressman added.
Butterfield said black America “continues to be victim of decades of discrimination and neglect by those in power.”
“Dr. King demanded change. Today, the Congressional Black Caucus and the people of Ferguson and Staten Island and Cleveland demand change in the way African Americans are treated in this country,” he said. “And so, the CBC comes today united in purpose. We’ve come in solidarity for this moment; a moment that in future years will be known as a turning point in race relations and opportunity.”
“…We will use our positions to expose racism when and where it is found. We will use our positions to introduce legislation to address the need for systemic change in the criminal justice system – changes not only regarding the means by which law enforcement officers carry out their duties, but the misconduct of prosecutors and grand juries. Your fight is our fight. Your success is our success.”
Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), a member of the CBC, was not among those who attended the Ferguson event. “In the spirit of Dr King, I honor you who silently serve, without fanfare or fuss, in order to make a difference in the world,” she tweeted today.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), not a member of the CBC, reflected on the holiday in a Sunday statement that noted “the path to this progress” championed by King “has been long and was bought with sacrifice, persistence, discipline and the conviction that we are better together.”
“Because of Dr. King’s leadership and the leadership of many others, our country has seen powerful things happen since the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Brave men and women, like Dr. King, believed that the future of this country, the future of freedom and justice, was worth the sacrifice. He showed the world that nonviolent resistance and its underlying message of love and understanding are both powerful strategies for social change. Dr. King continues to be a powerful inspiration,” Scott said.
“I hope that the important message of freedom, justice and equality that Dr. King spent his life fighting for continues to spread throughout our country and around our world.”