Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, parades, rallies, marches, and service prayers are commonplace, even expected, but this year, the tone and weight of the day's observances took on a much different meaning. As tension from the Ferguson and Eric Garner protests simmers on and entire communities continue to be subject to brutal policing tactics, King's message of equality — economically, gender-based, politically, but most pressing of all, racially — strikes a particularly personal chord in many people across the country.
This year, thousands peacefully marched in honor of the man, his legacy, and the hopes and dreams still shared today by many Americans that, in some ways, remain as elusive as ever. The similarity between King's racially-charged era and the 21st-century "post-racial America" is uncanny in many respects. Black and Hispanics are still hugely underrepresented in police forces throughout the country, and minorities are policed by those who have neither bridged a connection with nor an understanding of the communities they are supposed to protect.
Although people carried with them signs with familiar King quotes at the marches today, many also brought signs bearing the rallying cry of the Ferguson and Garner protests. "We Shall Overcome" was held up aside "Black Lives Matter," as well as Garner's last words before dying from a police choke hold, "I Can't Breathe." The cast of Selma marched alongside Alabama demonstrators, but more significantly, under the banner "Reclaim MLK" and "Dream 4 Justice," thousands of people in cities across the nation came out in honor of King and the struggle that continues even today.