Celebrate Martin Luther King Jnr Day in Wolverhampton

The Poet in Residence of Wolverhampton`s radio station, WCR FM – which broadcasts on 101.8 FM, online, Spotify and Listen Again – is inviting everyone to celebrate Martin Luther King Jnr`s Day on 16th January.


“It`s his birthday”, explained Ian Henery, Poet in Residence “and in the US some workers get the day off from work and schools close. What are we doing to remember the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr – the Baptist minister, activist and hero of the civil rights movement? We should all reflect upon his life, teach our children about the importance of his work as a civil rights leader and reflect on all of his contributions to society”.


The campaign for a holiday in his honour began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983. At first some states in America resisted observing the holiday as such but it was officially observed by all 50 states for the first time in 2000.


“Only 2 other figures have national holidays in the United States honouring them” explained Ian Henery “and they are George Washington and Christopher Columbus”.


The success of the movement to honour Martin Luther King Jnr was cemented when musician Stevie Wonder recorded the single “Happy Birthday” in 1980 to popularise the campaign and hosted the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981. Six Million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law. The petition became the largest in favour of an issue in US history.


“I can`t think of him without remembering his “I Have a Dream Speech” said Ian Henery “on 28th August 1963 although it was made before I was born. In the speech he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States.”


The speech was a defining moment of the civil rights movement and among the most iconic moments of American history.


“”I have a dream” – with that single phrase” said Ian Henery “Martin Luther King Jnr joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who shaped modern America. The speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century and also has a strong claim to be the greatest in the English language of all time.


According to Ian Henery we should not give up on hope.


“”I have a dream” said the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr – the lessons from history show us that often at the most dire moments the door opens for change”, said Ian Henery. “Climate challenges force us to re-evaluate how the world is run. Cost of living suffering brings questioning and demands. Propaganda reveals its own lies and brings anger to the surface.


“There have been many deaths but many births. Many to step up to the battles that lie ahead. Our way of life is changing, pushing us to think creatively about new strategies for living. Out of ashes we will rebuild better. We must live in hope, we must fuel our optimism, resist the pressures to make us afraid and hopeless. Stand strong, fight division, reach out to others, put one foot in front of the other, accept endings and loss and move towards something different. We can do it. ”


Picking Up The Pieces

Pick up the pieces and let us make peace;

In God`s name, war and suffering must cease.

When will we become humans of the world

And love, at the politicians, be hurled?

Why is there hatred across God`s own earth?

Why do we torture, maim and kill – in mirth?

The starving, we do not have sympathy:

Humbleness, we have an antipathy.

Giving, beyond our capability

Even if it meant world stability.

“I`m all that matters”! is the often cry

While we hear not the child who screams and dies.

Faith – it moves mountains, the things years have proved:

God`s love revealed, the thorn of doubt removed.

In God, let`s go out and give what He needs

Let`s do it with love – faith is our creed.

In God`s name, war and suffering must cease:

Pick up the pieces and let us make peace.

Ian Henery

Leave a Reply