King’s spirit is alive in a new generation of activists

Miami Herald Editorial Board

They are following in Martin’s footsteps.

Not just because they have marched, but also because of their devotion to a cause that’s bigger than they are; their willingness to live their commitments — and look past the haters.

The young people of the newest gun-control movement are simply the latest iteration of King’s legacy of nonviolent protest, inspiring followers and rattling the powers that be.

April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, suddenly is not just a day on which the man is commemorated.

Rather, it is a call to action. And in recent weeks and months, in our own back yard, we’ve seen that many haven’t had to wait for a specific date to get involved. In the past year, we’ve seen citizens put their commitment to what they see as a better America on display, and their credibility, reputations — and security — on the line. The women’s marches, Colin Kaepernick, fearful immigrants.

Most recently, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have taken the trauma of the Feb. 14 shooting and distilled from their grief and anger the message: #NeverAgain. They have taken their fight against assault weapons in civilians’ hands to the streets and the halls of power.

Two of those student leaders, Kai Koerber and Tyah Roberts, both 17, juniors and #MSDStrong, are the faces of such commitment. They talked to the Editorial Board on Tuesday about what they’ve learned from King. “We need to be peaceful and resilient in our message and showcase the struggle that’s really happening,” said Roberts, who in addition to pushing for gun control, also wants African-American students at Stoneman Douglas to be safe in the face of massive police presence. “But we need to make sure that we are doing it in a way that is ethical and a way that is right and that will really effect change.”

Ultimately, #NeverAgain must reach the voting booth. That’s just what King set in motion to ensure that African Americans achieved what was promised them in the Bill of Rights.

And like King, who faced down fire hoses, a stabbing, FBI surveillance and hostility from frightened whites and impatient blacks, students will have to work through the vitriol against them on social media, the lies and the mockery — largely from adults.

Again, like King, Roberts and Koerber know that their cause won’t end with them: “The things we do from now to the end of our lives,” Koerber said, “is not our final resolve.”