Since it was first celebrated in 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been a time to reflect on the legacy of the iconic civil rights activist. And in a new essay published on MLK Day 2015, hip-hop artist Killer Mike urges Americans to dig past surface level depictions of King as merely a peaceful icon. “He was not a flower-giving, other-cheek-turning sucker,” Mike writes, “He was a fiery preacher, returning from the mountaintop with a message that would turn the world as people knew it on its ear. Like his messiah Jesus Christ, he was a revolutionary.”
Mike—who is vocal about discussing racial inequality—speaks to King’s untimely death at the age of 39 (King would have been 86 this year had he not been assassinated). He also notes that King’s mission extended beyond the battle against racism to also fight against “poverty, pain, prison, and global war.” Having recontextualized King’s legacy, Killer Mike ends his piece with a call to action:
Be more than an American that simply enjoys the fruits of his labor by taking a day off. Be a keeper of his challenge to government. Be a source of agitation to policy-makers. Be an ally to those young people in the streets, fighting against corrupt police departments. Be a friend to the poor and to prisoners. Be more like Martin, Malcolm, Che, Hampton, Assata. Be willing to fight–with your life if need be–for the freedom, justice and liberation of all against tyranny and the war machine that these countries and corporations force upon us and call ‘normal’. We don’t need more depictions of Martin as anything other than what he was–and what we have to become to ever realize his dream of the eradication poverty, miseducation, inequality and war. We have to be revolutionaries and nothing less.
The full essay is available on Okayplayer.