MLK Call to Action: We demand an economic floor

The demand for an economic floor is at the root of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final book, “Where do we go from here?”, which makes a case for universal basic income as a starting point for a vibrant democracy. You can listen to the full speech here.

It was Black women activists, many who were single mothers, who pushed Dr. Martin Luther King to adopt a more expansive understanding of economic well-being rooted in obfuscating the false divide between working inside or outside the home.  

As we mark this day, we at NCLEJ are humbled to take up the struggle to continue demanding a dignified quality of life for all. This is the ongoing work. Here is a highlight of some of the individuals and organizations who we are honored to list as partners.  

In Buffalo, activists Phylicia Brown of Black Love Resists in the Rust and Jalonda Hill of Fair Fines and Fees Buffalo are reimagining public safety, putting forward policies that remove police from traffic encounters and offering alternatives. 

In Montgomery, senior citizens are telling stories about blight in their hometowns. They are assured: “blight” does not just happen. Residents are naming the complicity of the City for not tending to streets that have been subject to fires and disinvestment, and allowing property values in Black neighborhoods to drop.  

In Brownsville, Black and Brown residents are organizing town halls and demanding responses to state agencies that gave approval for National Grid’s fracked gas pipeline to be constructed in zip codes already stifled by high asthma rates.  

We know that the path to justice has never been given freely. We join tipped workers and gig workers, home healthcare workers and domestic workers, in advocating for everyone, regardless of their circumstances, to have the economic means to build a dignified quality of life.

While King’s legacy has been sanitized into billboards that begin and end around “content of character” and attempt to strip race from the discussion, we take inspiration from the King who insisted that the movement for racial justice must be linked to the movement for economic justice. 

King never backed down from organizing for a more inclusive democracy, a struggle that continues in towns and states across the U.S., and which will be tested once again during the mid-terms this November.   

In a powerful conclusion, King reminds us, “Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.”

This legacy, to ask more and demand more, and to keep organizing, is the work that we carry on.