The 92nd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King´s birthday is a poignant opportunity to consider the impact of his legacy. Systemic inequality continues to define the nation he lived and died for. It’s been nearly half a century after his assassination on April 6, 1968. But old tensions continue to bubble to the surface. America has never truly healed from its original sin.
Award-winning author Beverly Jenkins approaches this moment in our history with clear eyes. Today, she joins Areva for a compelling and timely conversation on a dream deferred.
Yesterday is Tomorrow
The murder of Dr. King at the height of his campaign for a more peaceful and united future made an indelible impression on Jenkins. In her teenage years at the time, the author saw this violent final rebuke of King´s idealistic visions as reflective of public opinion of the leader. In her view, Dr. King would be appalled, if unsurprised by the America of today. The Capitol Raid of January 6th stands as a particularly stark reminder of the country´s bloody past. A violent rejection of democratic, inclusive principles has shaped the nation since its inception.
Civil Rights Radicals
Condemning the hypocrisy of those who would ask for unity without accountability as ¨nauseating,¨ Jenkins does not mince words in assigning responsibility. The past half-decade in America has been fraught with angry, divisive rhetoric chiefly stoked by one end of the political spectrum. Conservatives have steadily stoked the flames of chaos, sowing fear and resentment in public spaces. For the Detroit native, these are echoes of her experience with the Civil Rights Era, where those who desired justice for all were called ¨dangerous radicals.¨
Steeped in History
The prolific author of 41 books gains much of her renown by giving a platform to the undiscovered black experience. She credits this focus to growing up with black history as a major element of her home life, sparking early appreciation for the contributions of the unsung heroes in America´s story. Not only centering her narratives on black characters, she also chooses settings that emphasize their rich and diverse culture. Her reverent yet relevant approach is widely credited with expanding the horizons of the familiar romance novel.
Beyond Black Pain
When Beverly Jenkins made her first endeavour into the industry, she quickly discovered there was no ready-made space for her vision. Media executives in the 90s placed a much higher premium on black pain than black pride, leading to an oversaturation of negative images. The author made it her mission to create spaces for black fulfillment in fiction as well as in fact, extolling the virtues of stories driven by love. While crediting trailblazers such as Elsie Washington for opening the door, Jenkins acknowledges her position in the genre.
Discussing the legacy of Dr. King at length, the author highlights the transformative power of creating chances for others to thrive. By taking the hard-won opportunities endowed to us by our forebears and using them to pull those behind us up, we build a better world. In her own work, she seizes every opening to elevate and celebrate voices that might be silent without her amplification. Beverly Jenkins considers herself part of the change Dr. King was able to bring to the world, and recognizes her role in bringing about his still-distant dream.
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