Editor’s Note: Levi Strauss Foundation’s Evelia Pérez attended this year’s MLK NOW event, held in New York.
At the third annual “MLK NOW” event, Pastor Michael McBride, a Levi Strauss Foundation Pioneer in Justice, joined a constellation of artists, entertainers, advocates, religious and community leaders to honor the timeless legacy of civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speaking to more than 2,000 people in attendance and nearly half a million viewers, Pastor Mike reminded us that in today’s climate of intolerance and fear, it is more urgent than ever to rekindle Dr. King’s legacy – particularly his dream of dismantling systems that perpetuate injustice and leave disadvantaged groups at the margins of society.
“We can’t lose heart and we can’t despair,” said Pastor Mike, executive director of Live Free, to enthusiastic applause. “We are in a long legacy of resistance and we are made for this moment.” Live Free is an Oakland based organization that works to end mass incarceration, stop gun violence, and build economic dignity for the hard to employ.
In partnership with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Color of Change, The Root and Live Free from the PICO National Network, the event featured Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o, Grammy-winning hip hop musician Black Thought of The Roots, and other artists reading the landmark human rights speeches and literary works from Dr. King, Coretta Scott King, Toni Morrison and Kathleen Neal Cleaver.
There is a long history of influential celebrities partnering with community and faith-based leaders to mobilize the public around social causes. Hollywood stars like Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman, to name a few, have worked with activists to fight against segregation and forge iconic civil rights moments like the March on Washington.
At the Levi Strauss Foundation, we are honored to support powerful voices of social change in these challenging times – they evangelize radical inclusion and possibility, even as their communities are in the crosshairs of attacks. These leaders know that they achieve greater impact by going beyond their base and engaging new audiences. They know that by joining a network of artists, performers, community and religious leaders, they help draw attention to causes, garner support from the public, and infuse resources that no amount of door-to-door community organizing can replicate.
Pastor Mike realizes we are facing a moral moment in the country. He hopes that events like MLK NOW inspire people to take action – from voting in upcoming elections to taking to the streets during the upcoming Women’s March. These actions can/will fuel a broad-based movement that insists on advancing the interests of the most vulnerable.
Pastor Mike joins the ranks of several other LSF grantees currently standing at the center of culture. During the Golden Globes, Ai-jen Poo from National Domestic Workers Alliance and Saru Jayaraman from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United were guests of Meryl Streep and Amy Poelher to raise awareness for “Time’s Up,” the Hollywood-led coalition confronting sexual harassment and assault in the workplace across all industries.
Hear more from Pastor Mike and others in attendance – catch the recording of the MLK NOW here.