The Memorial Foundation, which built the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, is now recruiting the next generation of social justice leaders and preparing them to step out onto the frontlines of the movement. Through June 11, the Foundation is accepting applications for our Social Justice Fellowship. This eight-week training program will provide rising leaders with the skills and connections they need to take our world closer to Dr. King’s dream.
When our Foundation unveiled Dr. King’s memorial 10 years ago, it marked a historic moment in the social justice movement and the legacy of Dr. King. The memorial became a permanent place to tell the civil rights leader’s story and promote the tenets of his teachings: democracy; justice; hope; and love. However, we knew the memorial did not mark our country’s fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. By many measures, we have yet to live up to the promise of America’s creed that all people are created equal.
Action is still required, and our rising generation of leaders knows that better than anyone. That is why, in the wake of repeated racial injustices and violence last year, young people led massive demonstrations around the nation, including at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Crowds filled the spaces around the towering stone carving of Dr. King, raising banners, taking knees, and grabbing bullhorns to lead the rallying cries of a new generation.
These spectacular moments in social justice can seem to rise up spontaneously, but they rarely do. In times of love, outrage, hope, or anger, leaders must emerge to channel that passion in a way that drives progress. Advocates must step forward to assemble, organize, and direct the energized masses. Bold individuals must have the courage to hold the microphone and take to the stage, and they need to know what to say when they do. To make the most of these moments, capable leaders must be able to amplify them through the media, replicate them in communities across the country, and translate them into actions on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in City Halls nationwide.
Through our Foundation’s Fellowship, we will teach rising leaders the skills required to lead the social justice movement. Accomplished workshop instructors will coach the Fellows on how to tell their stories, leverage the media, and run for elected office. We will also establish new connections between the Fellows and bring them to Washington, DC to provide personalized introductions to the national leaders who can further their cause. Our Fellowship will run virtually, for a just a few hours a week, so individuals with schooling, jobs, or family members to care for can still participate.
To much of the world, Dr. King has become a timeless figure who inspired us with his dream. However, we must remember that he was also a young man who dedicated himself, tirelessly, to the cause of social justice and knew he could not do it alone. At 27 years old, Dr. King said, “The urgency of the hour calls for leaders of wise judgement and sound integrity—leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice; leaders not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity; leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.”
If you are ready to answer Dr. King’s call for a new generation of such leaders, visit thememorialfoundation.org to apply.
Harry E. Johnson Sr. is President and CEO of The Memorial Foundation, which promotes awareness of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and its tenets of Democracy, Justice, Hope, and Love.