By Mayor Cavalier Johnson
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a mortal man with an immortal dream. During his lifetime, King sought to create common ground where people from all walks of life could join together to resolve issues and free themselves of heavy burdens.
Working alongside people of all ages, races and backgrounds, King encouraged everyone in America to work together to strengthen communities, reduce poverty and acknowledge dignity and respect for all.
King’s response to major issues was to speak the truth, share his dreams, and march toward freedom. He shined a bright light of truth on the injustices preventing a true, democratic nation for us all.
Influenced by the work of King and other advocates like him, my commitment to strengthening my community began at an early age when I was selected by the YMCA to participate in a pre-college program for low-income Milwaukee Public School students. That very same program, Sponsor-A-Scholar, solidified my life commitment to community service and making Milwaukee better for future generations.
Growing up, my family moved frequently, and until middle school I attended a different Milwaukee Public School almost every year. We faced violence, evictions, food insecurity—the challenges so common in urban poverty.
After graduating from college, I returned home to work for the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, now Employ Milwaukee. I worked with at-risk youth, young people entering the workforce for the first time, and adults retooling to enter the workforce. I went on to serve Milwaukee in the Mayor’s Office, where I worked diligently with community and faith leaders to find creative solutions to some of Milwaukee’s most pressing issues families face in all walks of life.
I proudly support the city’s renaming of all of North 3rd Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. At the recent street sign unveiling, I noted it is important to recognize symbolism, alone, is not sufficient to remedy the wrongs King challenged. Our actions are key to advance justice.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans dedicate their lives to addressing the issues that King fought so hard to improve. In my role as Milwaukee’s 2nd District Alderman, as Common Council President and now as Mayor of Milwaukee, I have committed myself fully to this cause.
Since King’s death in 1968, much has been done to advance equality and overcome prejudice. Still, much work remains. How do we refocus our efforts toward King’s vision?
It is my priority to reduce violence in our city, and we have to move forward with solutions together. It is essential that we all see ourselves as part of our community and understands their shared responsibilities of non-violence, respect and action. I think we need to look beyond the self-focus that is too common in our society and focus, instead, on the great power of the collective, as King did.
We all want to live in a world that King envisioned for us: a world of peace, prosperity and hope. That is what I wish for my three children, my wife and for all the residents of this city.
We need to rekindle and strengthen King’s light. We need to keep marching toward his dream, using faith and hope to sustain our resolve. This great city of ours needs us all to stand together. Through our actions, we are the living legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.