Celebrating Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s Legacy, Part 4


Martin Luther King Jr, at a press conference / World Telegram & Sun photo by Walter Albertin, 8 June 1964. No known copyright restrictions

One Hundred Contemporary Exemplars of Peace Advocacy and Activism: The First Fifty

by Kathie Malley-Morrison & Anthony J. Marsella

During this week, while we are honoring one of America’s greatest heroes, a man who personified many of the highest ethical values for which human beings can strive, we want to honor other activists promoting peace, social justice, and preservation of the earth. We are proposing 100 names — 50 today and 50 in the next post — for your consideration.    It is a diverse list–with men and women from a broad range of nations,  a variety of religious faiths, and a rainbow of skin colors.

Some of the names are likely to be familiar to you; others may not be.  You can click on each name to learn about that person and what he or she has done to earn our recognition.  Please send us your own nominations for membership in this group of leaders, with links to sites describing their efforts.

Here are our first 50 names; 

  1.  Abdul-Jabbar: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  2.  Adams: David Adams
  3. Albertini: James Albertini
  4.  Assange: Julian Assange
  5.  Atzmon: Gilad Atzmon
  6.  Avnery: Uri Avnery
  7.  Bacevich: Andrew Bacevich
  8. Baroud: Ramzy Baroud
  9.  Benjamin: Medea Benjamin
  10.  Berrigan: Frida Berrigan
  11.  Binney: William Binney
  12. Blum: Willam Blum
  13. Burrowes: Robert J. Burrowes
  14. Caldicott: Helen Caldicott
  15. Caputi: Ross Caputi 
  16. Castro: Gustavo Castro
  17. Chiponda: Melania Chiponda
  18. Chomsky: Noam Chomsky
  19. Coates: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  20. Cole: Juan Cole
  21. Cook: Michelle Cook
  22. Dalai: Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)
  23. Davis: Angela Davis
  24. De Rosa: Antonio de Rosa
  25. Ebadi: Shirin Ebadi
  26. Eidelson: Roy Eidelson
  27. Ellsberg: Daniel Ellsberg
  28. Engelhardt: Tom Engelhardt
  29. Falk: Richard Falk
  30. Feeley: Tom Feeley
  31. Fonda: Jane Fonda
  32. Galtung: Johan Galtung
  33. Garza: Alicia Garza
  34. Giroux: Henry A. Giroux
  35. Goodman: Amy Goodman
  36. Gorbachev: Mikhail Gorbachev
  37. Greenwald: Glen Greenwald
  38. Guevara-Rosas: Erika Guevara-Rosas
  39. Haugen: Gary Haugen
  40. Hedges: Chris Hedges
  41. Hersh: Seymour Hersh
  42. Hightower: Jim Hightower
  43. Ikeda: Daisaku Ikeda
  44. Jamail: Dahr Jamail
  45. Jones: Van Jones
  46. Kalaygian: Ani Kalayjian
  47. Karman: Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman
  48. Kelly: Kathy Kelly
  49. Killelea: Steve Killelea
  50. Kiriakou: John Kiriakou   


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12 Responses to Celebrating Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s Legacy, Part 4

  1. LB says:

    The people on this list represent contradictory messages and methods. While many continue to directly support and benefit from our neoliberal, militaristic, imperialistic and capitalistic system, I also recognize the names of a few who’ve exercised moral courage in consistently challenging it.

    Although the roots of the problem run deep and aren’t limited to any particular group or party, in a recent Truthdig article titled “This Is Not the ‘Dream’ Martin Luther King Had”, Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report had this to say:

    “But the majority of today’s Black denizens of Capitol Hill are in league with the very “triple evils” that King identified and struggled against: racism, extreme materialism (capitalism) and militarism. Under the leadership of the Democratic Party, they have perverted the electoral franchise of the nation’s most progressive constituency to the service of a global war machine and an all-pervasive national security state—the antithesis of Dr. King’s vision.”


    Over the years, Martin Luther King’s message has been distorted and sanitized for popular mass consumption. If he were alive today, I suspect his articles would only be found on black-listed sites like Black Agenda Report, World Socialist Web Site, Truthdig, Counterpunch, etc.

    We’d probably have a better chance of catching MLK in an interview on Russian TV than on CNN or PBS. Just as there’s a reason we don’t see Chris Hedges on CNN.

    We can’t have it both ways. There comes a time when each of us has to decide which is more important, being well-liked by the majority of our peers or following our conscience ~ which isn’t to say everyone must serve in the same way, or that we must all be activists, only that we at least must discern and DECIDE for ourselves what it is we value most.

    • kathiemm says:

      Thanks for another very thoughtful–and thought-stimulating comment, LB. I too was impressed by the Truthdig article titled “This Is Not the ‘Dream’ Martin Luther King Had” by Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and I recommend it to all EP readers. Chris Hedges is on our list of nominees for noteworthy peace and social justice advocates and his writings are welcome on engaging peace any time. and if MLK were still alive, you can bet that interviews with him would also be welcome on engaging peace. If you can think of worthy nominees for our list, advocates and activists who have not been co-opted by the system, please include their names in a comment, with links if possible. Thanks again for your contributions to engaging peace.

      • LB says:

        Kathie ~ From the beginning ~and although I’ve appreciated your gracious responses to my more provocative comments~ I’ve been confused and frustrated by the conflicting and contradictory messages (and messengers) promoted on Engaging Peace. Also by the conspicuous absence of posts openly critical of Democratic candidates and their positions both during and after the 2016 election.

        Equally troubling is that it seems the majority of your regular commenters either don’t pick up on or object to these (apparent) contradictions and omissions.

        It’s reached a point where I have to ask myself what it is I hope to accomplish by continuing to read and comment on EP. While we probably agree on many things, I suspect we have very different visions of what peace means and asks of us, how we got here.

        • kathiemm says:

          Dear LB.Thank you so much for your comment. One of the major goals of Engaging Peace is to foster dialogue concerning issues of peace versus war, nonviolence versus violence, and social justice versus oppression and exploitation. Your comments through the last few years have been a welcome contribution to the dialogue and I hope you will continue.
          I think I understand some of your frustration, but Engaging Peace is not intended to be a political platform for any of our political parties. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, EP is not allowed to endorse candidates for election, and I am quite comfortable with that. EP was created to be a promoter of peace, conflict resolution, perspective-taking, empathy, and dialogue—a pathway to all those other goals. Efforts toward these goals are often fraught with contradictions and frustrations. As President of EP and the author of the majority of the posts, I try to avoid damning or praising individuals identified with any of the political parties, while freely criticizing the nation’s history of imperialism, wanton capitalism, racism, sexism, and various inhumanities perpetrated through many generations of shifting centers of political power, both blue and red. I am not as concerned with party politics, however relevant they may be to glaring problems in this country, as with the growth of income inequality, the concentration of financial and political power in the pockets of a tiny percentage of individuals who care nothing about democratic principles or the welfare of all. Clearly not all of those individuals are members of the same political party.
          Finally, EP’s editorial policy is not intended to pressure all contributing authors to march the same path, follow the same map, or share the same conveyances to get to peace and social justice. The blog encourages an exchange of views. I am sure diversity in perspectives and views from competing camps may produce a sense of inconsistency, but it seems unlikely that EP can identify the one true path to peace or that it will find angels to lead us there. So I encourage contributing authors, readers, and myself to do the best they can to identify the positive efforts towards peace and social justice that so many individuals have undertaken—despite disagreements among themselves and inevitable signs of their being human beings with human frailties.

          Please continue to share your efforts at working for peace and social justice with Engaging Peace, including pointing out gaps or flaws in arguments presented. Your voice is needed

          • Your response to LB’s critique and dissatisfaction is edifying, courteous, balanced, and more than adequately comprehensive. I sincerely doubt the validity of the opening lines of LB’s first critique, which assert that “the people on this list represent contradictory messages and methods,” and “many [of them] continue to directly support” the system they so clearly and conscientiously condemn for its pervasive and interconnected injustices. I also sincerely doubt the validity of LB’s second critique, which asserts that EP promotes “conflicting and contradictory messages (and messengers.” Perhaps LB could submit an article factually substantiating such claims; and perhaps such an article would stimulate a healthy debate: a dialogue both historically and politically enlightening. Meanwhile, it is certainly true that both major political parties have sold their souls to the mega-wealthy corporate elite, and — with criminal complicity by the mainstream news media — have made it nearly impossible for a third (authentically progressive!) political party to become viable in the USPSD — the United States of Political Sophistry and Dysfunction.

  2. LB says:

    I’d like to correct something in my previous comment, which is that *some* on the list (rather than “many”) support our system. Some don’t.

  3. Haven’t seen the rest of your list yet, but I’m confident you’ll be including Howard Zinn. In that spirit then, and since you have asked for suggestions, I recommend Lewis Randa, Michael Parenti, John Pilger, Richard Rorty, Michael Moore, Sulak Sivaraksa, Matthew Fox, Robert Thurman, and Lewis Lapham, as well as Mother Jones, Emma Goldman, Helen Keller, Dorothy Day, Ami Goodman, and Abby Martin. (Sorry for the lack of links. Also, I’ll have to check on the spelling of “Abby.”) Because you are alphabetizing, and have already completed the first fifty on your list, perhaps you could save some of these names for next year. Am delighted to see that you included Jane Fonda, William Blum, Seymour Hersh, and Jim Hightower. We should no doubt also include Arundhati Roy, Joan Baez (!), and Daniel and Phillip Berrigan. Meanwhile, I assume you’ll be including Oscar Romero. Would also be nice to include Mark Ruffalo. And I hope you don’t mind if I use this space to nominate Garry Webb (author of “Dark Alliance”) for The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award. For those who don’t know his name, I recommend the film “Kill the Messenger.” And since I’m somewhat on a roll here, and your readers might appreciate the observation, kindly allow me to conclude with a tangential note on the recent, award-nominated Tom Hanks / Meryl Streep film “The Post”, which celebrates the courage of Ben Bradlee and Kate Graham in publishing parts of Daniel Ellsberg’s “Pentagon Papers” in The Washington Post back in the early ’70s, just prior to Nixon’s fall from grace thanks to the Watergate caper. A few years later, Bradlee published his autobiography and was interviewed on NPR. He was naturally asked about the “Pentagon Papers” and the heroic role of the Post (reporters Woodward and Bernstein in particular) in exposing the Nixon Administration’s lies and obstruction of justice regarding Watergate. Having covered these two topics, and proceeding henceforth, he said (admitted!) that he (editor in chief) and Kate Graham (owner of the Post) decided that the American people were too traumatized (i.e. infantile) to handle any more truth about governmental crimes. So it was back to business as usual for The Washington Post, being a cheerleader for all the wars that followed, crucifying both Gary Webb and President Jimmy Carter, and failing the American public in not demanding that Ford, Reagan, Bush, Cheney and company be imprisoned for their crimes against humanity and undermining American democracy. The public can’t learn from history if the press doesn’t hold the government accountable; and since those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it, here we are in the age of Trump, edging toward nuclear war, ecological disaster, economic collapse, and domestic fascism.

  4. PS: I suppose I could or should have also made reference to the lies, crimes, cowardice, and hypocrisy of Bill Clinton and Barak Obama (not to mention Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson); but if readers avail themselves of the enlightenment opportunity offered in the list of Engaging Peace heroes and heroines in the spirit of Martin Luther King, and encourage their friends to do the same, then maybe democracy, justice and peace have a chance of surviving in what Gore Vidal called The United States of Amnesia; and, of course, Vidal’s name should certainly appear on the list, as I hope it will.

  5. PPS: Took a while, but I finally remembered the name that also deserves to be on the list: Vandana Shiva (contemporary female Asian Indian civil rights and environmental activist). 🙂

    • kathiemm says:

      Thanks for this nomination and your others, Stefan. I hope you will be pleased to see in our second list several of the names you recommended for inclusion.
      Some names are missing purely because the individual has passed away, and we decided to focus only on living peace activists.

      • Mea culpa, ma cherie. The title of the EP post to which I responded refers to “Contemporary Exemplars”, which is something I should have noticed. I just did, however, notice that in your follow-up post (#5 re MLK’s legacy and torch-bearers: the second fifty), you changed the word “Contemporary” to “Living.” So maybe my mistake had a modestly auspicious linguistic effect, as “living” is a little more vivacious and implicitly immediate. Still, though, as I think you’ll agree, my above nominations of no-longer-living peace-and-justice advocates and activists may prove edifying for some readers of EP’s “commentary” page; in which case, my mistake would be even more auspicious. In any case, thanks for your always courteous and clarifying response.

        • kathiemm says:

          Thanks, Stefan. You are correct that the term I should have used consistently in all four of the posts in this series was “living,” rather than “contemporary.” and that was definitely my slip rather than that of my co-author Anthony Marsella. I hope you will be happy to hear that we have plans for future posts in this series that will include contemporary and not so contemporary peace heroes that are no longer living. Please send all nominations for that list, including if possible noteworthy peace activists who may not be so widely known as icons like MLK.

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