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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy Remembered In Scranton As Officials Issue Call To Combat Poverty

April 4, 2019

SCRANTON — On the 51st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, lawmakers, community leaders and activists gathered in the city Thursday to celebrate his lasting legacy of civil rights and social and economic justice. Gathered on Courthouse Square, state Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, Black Scranton Project founder Glynis Johns and others spoke of both King’s civil rights record and tireless advocacy for impoverished and working people. The event was part of a larger effort by the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus to address poverty and economic insecurity in the state, with similar events held Thursday in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Reading. Reading from the famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech King delivered the day prior to his April 4, 1968, assassination — where he spoke of reaching the “promised land” — Greater Scranton Martin Luther King Commission President Cathy Ann Hardaway said the promised land King described was one of “equal opportunity, fair wages and an end to poverty.” When President Lyndon B. Johnson called for the War on Poverty in 1964, Hardaway said, the national poverty rate was between 19 and 20 percent. Today between 12 and 13 percent of Pennsylvanians live below the poverty line, which underscores the need for further action to help the poor and economically disadvantaged, she said. “We must continue to march, continue to fight and continue to strive for what is right,” Hardaway said. In that spirit, Blake highlighted a series of legislative proposals and impending initiatives to combat economic insecurity and related issues in the state, including efforts to raise the minimum wage, establish a housing assistance program for homeless veterans, equip workers to build wealth through workforce development programs and more. “These are ambitious undertakings, but social justice, fair wages and access to quality education are what we’re about today as we commemorate the tragedy of losing Dr. King,” Blake said. Meanwhile, Johns encouraged residents to research and seek out those who embody King’s legacy in their own communities. “Dr. King unapologetically combined radical thought, political reason and oratorical brilliance,” Johns said. “I encourage each of you to investigate and research who our local civil rights leaders are and were, and who can carry that baton now. If you can’t seem to find those individuals, become the person that makes a difference. That is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did.” Contact the writer: horvath@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9141;@jhorvathTT on Twitter

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