Martin Luther King’s son has a dream: that American democracy will be “reclaimed” by the midterm elections.
“My hope is that on Tuesday we will see a record number of women and other often underrepresented groups elected to office. This could be,” said Martin Luther King III pausing to stifle rising tears, “just phenomenal.”
“If enough people get involved in mobilising voters we can truly reclaim what we consider to be democracy,” he said.
To sit in a movie theatre in Virginia, the birthplace of American slavery, in an audience full of black people and hear Martin Luther King III speak about hate, and the urgency for hope and healing in 2018, was a grave and humbling lesson in history.
On Saturday night, in the small town of Charlottesville, a documentary about the white supremacist rally that took place there in August 2017, which claimed one life and injured many others, premiered. In the audience sat Martin Luther King’s son.
Fifty years on from his father’s assassination, he sat watching violent, hateful scenes of marching, hooded white men carrying flames and wielding weapons, shouting about their right to free speech in a town where black people make up 20% of the population and live in the “low-income neighbourhoods”.
Fifty years on, he sat watching images of the Ku Klux Klan surrounding a group of students all holding hands in peaceful resistance, one a woman in a wheelchair, as they taunted and goaded them.
And then, as Heather Heyer is pronounced dead after white supremacist James Alex Fields ploughed his car into a group of local people carrying Pride flags, Martin Luther King III had to watch as the leader of his country said there was “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides”.
The audience booed at the footage from Donald Trump’s press conference. The booing was drowned out by the chant: ‘Don’t boo, vote. Don’t boo, vote.’
And tomorrow the American people will have the chance to do just that, as they go to the polls to vote on which 535 men and women will sit in their House of Representatives and Senate.
While voter turnout is always low in these general elections, and international attention is as apathetic, tomorrow’s vote is set to be a historic one.
With youth voter registration through the roof and a record number of women running, the American public will finally get to cast its judgment on the Trump presidency — either punishing him by voting his Republican party out of their majority in the two houses of government, or giving him the green light to push his divisive America First agenda.
Fifty years on from MLK’s death, America is as divided as ever and national anger is at fever pitch. To this anger, Martin Luther King III said: “You have to find a way to love the hell out of people, you really do.”
“I was 10 years old when my father was gunned down. I was 11 years old when my uncle mysteriously drowned. I was 15 years old when my grandmother was killed in the church while praying the Lord’s Prayer. My father was killed by a white man. It would have been easy to embrace hatred,” said the civil rights activist.
Tomorrow his dream is one of rebellion, not to divide, but to unite, one that instead of “building long walls” creates bridges that “serve mutual interest”.