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NAACP President Allen Edson Speaks About the Lasting Influence of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Published on Monday, January 18, 2021 | 5:00 am
NAACP President Allen Edson

In early 2020, the coronavirus spread so quickly that it soon forced the closure of businesses, mandated the wearing of protective masks in public, and drove people into little bubbles of soul-sucking virtual isolation.

Then came May 25 and the choking death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, touching off sometimes violent but otherwise mostly peaceful demonstrations and calls for justice in every major city in the country.

And in the fall, as a new COVID-19 vaccine was offering a glimmer of hope for recovery, it was the election, which saw President Trump lose in a landslide victory for former Vice President Joe Biden. This compelled a desperate Trump to declare the election rigged, sparking bloody rioting at the nation’s Capitol Building by heavily armed right-wing radicals, resulting in five deaths, one of them a protester, another a police officer.

At the time of this writing, the pandemic continued virtually unabated, race relations were at a new low, and Trump had become the only president to be impeached twice after the House of Representatives determined he had incited the seditious attack on the capitol.

With the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration set for 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17, on YouTube, featuring talks by Dr. Terrence Roberts of the Little Rock Nine, Tournament of Roses President Bob Miller, and Emergency Medicine Specialist Dr. Eric D. Brown, one has to wonder: What would Martin Luther King Jr. say about all of today’s turmoil and despair?

“He would be disappointed,” said Allen Edson, president of the NAACP Pasadena chapter. 

“Things aren’t good,” Edson said. “We’ve got a divided country. That’s pretty much where we are. So things aren’t moving forward. But that’s what I’m working at, trying to change our society. …We’ve got to do better.”

There were moments of hope, one of them the election of Kamala Harris, the nation’s first, Black, first woman, and the first Asian-American to serve as vice president. 

But, said Edson, “That’s window dressing. We’ll see what happens. But I don’t think that is going to be the thing that turns the tide.” 

But if not that, then what would turn the tide?

“We’ve got to get back to morality. We have to set examples. We have to have morals, we’ve got to have values,” he said

“We’re a divided country and we’ve got to be able to try to unite this country in a positive way that that moves forward,” said Edson, who remembers hearing King speak at Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena in the early ’60s. 

“I’m looking at leadership coming from the faith community. We’ve got the new senator from Georgia, (the Rev. Raphael) Warnock, who preached at the same church as Martin Luther King Jr. He should carry those same ideas and vision to the Senate floor,” Edson said in a separate interview.

“There’s a lot of work to do. And the more voices that participate in that work by becoming civically engaged, the better,” he said.

“This is a battle of how ideas get implemented. We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm from young people, but we need to take that enthusiasm and channel it into some positive activity that we see that’s needed. And a lot of that comes from participating in the political process,” he said.

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