Citing gun violence in the U.S., the deaths of families in Ukraine and Gaza from war, and threats from artificial intelligence, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter said the world urgently needs to study and adopt her father’s philosophy of nonviolence to avoid self-destruction.

The Rev. Bernice King used an address to announce events for the upcoming holiday in honor of her father to warn that humanity was at a critical juncture.

“We are witnessing unprecedented loss of human life and especially among the Black, brown and indigenous people throughout the world,” she said.

She also mentioned conflicts in Yemen, Congo and Ethiopia and cited racism against Black people as another threat to humans, saying it remained a “blight” more than 50 years after her father was assassinated.

Overall, humanity was dangerously close to fulfilling her father’s prophecy that it could destroy itself through the misuse of its own instruments, she warned. But she also offered a solution.

The study and practice of her father’s philosophy of nonviolence could teach people how to live together peacefully, she said. The events the King Center planned for 2024 around the MLK holiday included a teach-in, and training seminars centered on the theme of shifting “the cultural climate” through “Kingian nonviolence.”

“We face individual and collective choices that will determine whether we will continue to diminish and devastate humanity and the earth or if we will become co-conspirators to shift the cultural climate throughout our nation and world,” she said.

The holiday also marked 100 days since October 7, when Hamas launched an attack in southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people and resulted in about 240 taken hostage. Since then, more than 100 Israelis remain kidnapped and more than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, as global health organizations have warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis there.

The March on Washington for Gaza was a massive event held on January 13 in the nation’s capital, co-hosted by the American Muslim Task Force on Palestine, comprising of some of the largest Muslim organizations in the U.S., along with antiwar and racial justice groups.

March organizers called on President Joe Biden to demand a permanent cease-fire and an end to the violence against civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. They are also called for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian political prisoners and for an end to American unconditional financial support for the Israeli military.

The title of the January 13 march evoked the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, at which King delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech atop the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That history, as well as King’s vocal opposition to the U.S. role in the Vietnam War toward the end of his life, is a guiding factor for the organizers.

In 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated, King delivered his famous “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech at Riverside Church in New York City. After quietly opposing the Vietnam War for years, he took the public step to condemn it, connecting racial and economic inequality in the U.S. with increased military spending abroad.

“I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such,” King said in his speech.

King’s daughter, Bernice King, has said her father was against antisemitism and also would have opposed the bombing of Gaza. The taking of lives through retaliatory violence is not the strategy he would want to see today.

“There is an opportunity for us to have a real breakthrough and get to some genuine conversations and actions that can allow people to co-exist in an area of the world,” she said.

King believed protests are critical in difficult times. She just hoped that people in general use nonviolent words and actions if they invoke her father’s name.

“My father had a certain manner, tone and tenor in his protest. You know, your language, your speech has to be in line, not just the physical acts,” she said. “But if your language is violent, that is not necessarily in sync with Dr. King.”

Observed federally since 1986, the holiday occurs on the third Monday of January, which this year happens to be the Rev. King’s actual birthday. Born in 1929, the minister would have been 95. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and King’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Sudhin Thanawala, Terry Tang, Noreen Nasir, and MI Staff

Associated Press

ATLANTA, Georgia

John Bazemore (AP), Patrick Post (AP), and Mike AZ (via Shutterstock)