Employees from the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a birthday observance event Jan. 23 in Philadelphia.
DLA Troop Support Commander Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence explained that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service encouraging all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
“As we reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, a little-known fact by many is that his journey to become a Baptist church minister and Civil Rights activist began right here in the Philadelphia area,” Lawrence said.
In 1948, King was selected as one of 11 African-American students to attend Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he ultimately graduated first in his class in 1951, Lawrence said. And in 1950, King and his friends were denied service at a restaurant in Maple Shade, New Jersey because of their race, which sparked his first sit-in.
While Lawrence described King’s impact locally, guest speaker Jim Lucas gave an overview of King’s Civil Rights influence in Southern states and nationally, challenging racially discriminatory laws and public policies.
Lucas explained the success of the Montgomery Boycott propelled King into the national spotlight.
In 1957, King became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Congress, which became the base for his national Civil Rights operation, Lucas said.
“In subsequent years, [King] participated in numerous sit-ins, boycotts, demonstrations, ‘freedom rides,’ and marches pushing for Civil Rights,” Lucas said. “As a result of his activities, he was arrested nearly two dozen times, and the most noted arrest took place in the spring of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama.”
After days of protesting in Birmingham, King was imprisoned and wrote his infamous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” to white Christian leaders opposed to his activism, Lucas explained.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed,” Lucas quoted from King’s letter.
In addition to sharing King’s experiences with resistance, Lucas also shared personal anecdotes of his father advocating for his right to vote in the 1960s.
The event was sponsored by the DLA Troop Support Equal Employment Opportunity office and NAVSUP Weapons Systems Support EEO Advisory Committee.