One nation with two very different realities

In celebration of Dr. King’s legacy, we invite you to examine his critique of the “Other America”

This month, our nation will celebrate the 92nd birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To say that Black lives mattered to Dr. King would be an understatement — not only did he recognize the importance of Black lives, but he fought and paid the ultimate price for them with his own life. It is only fitting that we celebrate his birthday every January to commemorate his life and legacy.

In 1967, Dr. King delivered a speech entitled The Other America to students and staff at Stanford University. In his speech, Dr. King cites two stark realities for American citizens. He describes one America as "overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits." This America, according to Dr. King,  allows young people to "grow up in the sunlight of opportunity." But there is also the “Other America”. Dr. King states this Other America "has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair." This America is besieged by unemployment, poverty, and despair, and as we fast forward to today, one might ask if the “Other America” is still prevalent today?

In 2011, Michael Moore revealed in his piece The Forbes 400 vs. Everybody Else that the Forbes 400 boasted more wealth than the bottom 50% of U.S. households combined. With an even timelier topic, we also know that the African American and Latinx communities are disproportionately affected by police violence as reported by the Washington Post this month. The Other America seems just as relevant today as when Dr. King first spoke of it over 50 years ago.

The American Library Association (ALA), Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT), Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Task Force, and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) will host its first-ever virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Sunrise Celebration scheduled for Monday, January 25 at 11 a.m. The keynote speaker for the celebration will be V.P. Franklin, author of The Young Crusaders: The Untold Story of the Children and Teenagers Who Galvanized the Civil Rights Movement, with the Call-To-Action delivered by Librarian of Congress and past ALA-President Carla Hayden. This virtual event is in conjunction with Beacon Press and OCLC and will be livestreamed on ALA's YouTube Channel. The theme of the event is fittingly The Other America. “As a co-chair of this event, I would like to invite all of you to join us for this rare opportunity to experience an event that has become a hallmark celebration at the annual ALA Midwinter meetings,” says LaJuan Pringle, branch leader at West Boulevard Library. “Regardless of whether you register for the virtual 2021 Midwinter Meeting, you can still gain access to this event. Please join us if you can!”

This blog post was written by LaJuan Pringle, branch leader at West Boulevard Library.