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KY Observes Anniversary of MLK Death Today

April 4, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - From public employees to child care workers, many Kentucky residents are pausing today to honor the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They're remembering him and drawing connections between his work on behalf of America's disenfranchised and the problems facing today's poor and working families.

In the national office of the Parent-Child Home Program, Sarah Walzer says if King were alive today he would be fighting for organizations that coordinate school readiness and literacy programs. She says early childhood development programs are facing the budget-cutter's axe on Capitol Hill.

"It's a bit of a mark of how little has changed in 40-plus years."

And organized labor is holding MLK Day observances this week,

Stephen Madarsz with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), says observances are being held today and all week under the auspices of an organized labor campaign called We Are One, reminding workers that when he was shot on this day in 1968, he was working to help sanitation workers fight for collective bargaining rights... rights that are still being fought over in many states today.

"What we believe this week is all about is trying to bring back those historic ties between the Civil Rights Movement and working people and get people to work constructively together for progressive change."

In the last year of his life, Dr. King formed the Poor Peoples' Campaign, expanding his agenda from its previous focus on civil rights to jobs, income and housing. Walzer says poor people today are in danger of losing early child development programs that help, ultimately, to lift them out of poverty.

"Failure to expand those services to keep up with the growing number of children under 5 living in poverty is going to have repercussions for decades to come because those are the children who are going to enter school not prepared to be there, who will not move through school successfully."

Madarazs says King was on the side of the sanitation workers in Memphis who were trying to form a union, when he was shot and killed.

"I think it's really, in many respects, a tremendous measure of his life that he was there, standing up for people who really had no voice at that time."

More information about the We Are One rallies is available at www.WeR1.org.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY