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Honoring King: Creating a Coalition for Social Justice

Tom Turnipseed

The 12th annual King Day at the Dome march and rally at the South Carolina State House on January 17 brought together a coalition of organizations and individuals who are working to fulfill the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They advocated cooperative activism for more jobs, affordable housing, better health care for the poor and disabled, and to oppose drastic cuts for public education, as well as a draconian Arizona styled immigration legislation that will be very costly, financially and morally.

Our event has had the highest attendance of any King Day birthday celebration in the country since 2000, with this year's crowd filling the front plaza and including two busloads from Detroit. More than 50,000 people participated in 2000 in our first such march and rally sponsored by the South Carolina NAACP to protest the Confederate flag flying atop our State House along with the United States' and South Carolina's state flags. In a disrespectful gesture to the massive protest, the South Carolina General Assembly brokered a "compromise" among themselves that moved the rebel flag from atop our state capitol to the Confederate soldier's memorial monument in front of the State House on July1, 2000.

The Confederate flag has been a symbol of white supremacy, waved by the Ku Klux Klan, racist rednecks and assorted devotees of the Confederate morality when they lynched and terrorized black people from the Civil War to the present day. The KKK waved the rebel flag as they burned black churches in South Carolina in the ‘90s. In 1962 it was placed atop the State House in defiance of the Civil Rights Movement. At the Confederate soldier's monument the rebel flag has remained a visible statement of in-your-face disrespect to people of color. At the rally we renewed the S.C. NAACP's call to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds.

Dr. Lonnie Randolph said it was an atrocity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the union on December 20th in Charleston with a "gala". South Carolina's secession and subsequent firing on Fort Sumter to defend slavery started a war that killed over 600,000 soldiers, and is nothing to celebrate. He declared it is as offensive to black people as it would be to Jewish Americans if we "celebrated" their oppression under Nazis Germany.

The NAACP held a protest march and rally against the secession "celebration" in Charleston and I was in a picture on the front page of the local newspaper participating in the march. On December 29 Dr. Randolph held a media conference that I attended. 3 days later I received a handwritten letter from an unnamed person who signed the letter, "a fairly intelligent redneck who loves South Carolina" and printed "Sons of the Confederacy, Senior Vice President" on the envelope. He began the four page diatribe with, "Mr. Tom Turnipseed, Since you seem to love the black people (Re: Your recent smiling face while Lonnie Randolph did the usual BS on TV and you marching in Charleston) Do you realize the blacks are taking over and whites like you are helping and cheering them on?...They have a truckload of children (without) a daddy so they get a bigger welfare check...the white race creates everything in America". As a life member of the NAACP serving on the SC NAACP's planning committee, I‘ve raised the wrath of racists who have picketed our law office with signs calling me a race traitor.

The immigration issue is also threatening to racists. Dr. King said "We may have come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now." Wade Henderson, CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Coalition spoke at our rally against the immigration legislation pending in South Carolina, calling for coalition action to defeat it.

Passage of the law will require State resources for additional law enforcement personnel, more prison space, the defense of legal challenges. We will lose tourism dollars due to boycotts and lose labor for the tourist and construction industries and to harvest our crops, all while vital government services are cut. Morally, the bill violates our values by jailing peaceful, hard-working people and separating children from their families, as well as by racial profiling.

Homeless Helping Homeless (HHH) was on the King Day agenda. HHH members are working to remove the negative stereotyping of homeless and become responsible, productive citizens with jobs, affordable housing and health care.

John Holmes, chairman of Homeless Helping Homeless (HHH) quoted Dr. King, "we are all interdependent, all interrelated. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are our brother's keeper because we are our brother's brother."

Our interdependent coalition at King Day at the Dome will work for social justice to fulfill Dr. King's legacy.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is

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