Martin Luther King: Lessons for the Ugandan citizen

What you need to know:

  • In a country where state institutions are complicit in overt transgressions against the citizen, the sense of helplessness by the citizen is palpable. Therefore, Dr. King’s personal experience and protracted campaign for social justice and racial equality carries profound lessons for the Ugandan Citizen if he is to change his fortunes.

Last week, January 16, the world commemorated Martin Luther King Day. The day was gazetted a federal holiday by the American congress in 1983 to pay tribute to Dr King’s memory and legacy as a civil rights activist. 

Dr King was one of the foremost leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Fully exploiting his charismatic church ministerial style which he dramatized with poetic oratory talents, he was able to soon arrest national attention and in the process distinguish himself as the most recognizable face of the civil rights movement.

The Civil Rights Movement was structured on the paramount mission of achieving racial equality and social justice in the United States of America. The overarching cause of the movement was to create massive public awareness and seek to redress historical wrongs that perpetuated a systematic and institutionalised   culture of racial segregation and marginalization against the black American population.

Never in doubt on the core aspirations of the movement, one obstacle still straddled the course to its ultimate dream  -  the urgent need to galvanize the unity of the American black population; to re awaken the consciousness of a resigned  people; to restore a sense of pride and inherent autonomy of the black person in America.

In other words, the black American citizen, un-emancipated from the slavery of his mind, risked becoming the biggest obstacle in the path to his freedom.

In many respects, the foregoing statement is true in the context of our Ugandan society. Emasculated and equivocal in the assertion of his sovereignty and autonomy, the average Ugandan Citizen feels violated, betrayed and defenseless.

In a country where state institutions are complicit in overt transgressions against the citizen, the sense of helplessness by the citizen is palpable. Therefore, Dr. King’s personal experience and protracted campaign for social justice and racial equality carries profound lessons for the Ugandan Citizen if he is to change his fortunes.

Firstly, without a society cultivating a sense of self awareness, it’s futile to appraise itself of its mission and ultimate destiny. As the history of Dr. King and the civil Rights Movement demonstrates, a combination of individual and collective actualisation sits at the core of mass inspired positive action. Consistently applied, this positive action yields change and it is the change that eventually triggers a transformation.

Secondly, in the quest for positive radical societal transformation, there can be no substitute for unity of purpose. A proposed unity impels societal concern and action as people feel genuinely connected by the loose social ties that bind a community.  This not only enhances a shared feeling of empathy amongst the community members, it also reinforces the aspect of pro activeness as everyone will feel individually accountable to work for the greater good of society. The resistance of injustice and oppression become second nature to everyone. This way, social activism and advocacy become naturally ingrained in a society’s psyche.

Thirdly, the imperative that is leadership cannot be overstated. Society always desires a leader that epitomizes values like courage, convictions and integrity. Tenacious leadership as exemplified by Dr King always inspires an instant faith and endorsement of the society. 

Indeed as Dr King observed, “A true leader is not a searcher of consensus, but a molder of consensus”. Leaders therefore ought to be hinged and secure personalities; they should be predisposed to accept criticism and not guillotine voices of dissent. But above all, leaders ought to emulate Dr King’s leadership trait of humility and selfless  service to others.

Lastly, even when Dr. King’s natural life was bereft of any Ugandan association, his legacy is an enduring example to the contemporary Ugandan citizen.

Isaac Kwagala, Civil Rights Lawyer

@isaackwagala

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