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MLK family asks for no celebration until lawmakers pass voting rights legislation

Prayer breakfasts, marches, parades and an uptick in volunteer efforts to support the

annual Day of Service have remained staples of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However,

the late civil rights icon’s family has asked that observers strike a different tune in

2022.

King’s family has requested no celebration unless federal lawmakers pass voting

rights legislation, a task that appears out of reach as President Joe Biden and several

Democrats have faced stiff Republican opposition.

Democrats have also been hampered by members of their own party, notably West

Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote is crucial in an evenly split chamber.

“President Biden and Congress used their political muscle to deliver a vital

infrastructure deal, and now we are calling on them to do the same to restore the very

voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to

secure,” Martin Luther King III, the oldest son and oldest living child of King Jr. and

Coretta Scott King said in a statement. “We will not accept empty promises in pursuit

of my father’s dream for a more equal and just America,”

King III, his wife Arndrea Waters King, and their daughter Yolanda King say they

plan to mobilize activists on MLK weekend— January 14-16— to demand a voting

rights bill.

In numerous Republican-led states like Texas, Florida and Georgia, lawmakers have

passed or are attempting to pass tight voter suppression laws that would disenfranchise

many voters of color and the elderly.

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), promised that

the U.S. Senate would vote by Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 17) on whether the

chamber would adopt new rules to circumvent the draconian filibuster to enable the

passage of voting rights and social justice bills.

“We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then

how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party

can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple

majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same? We must adapt,”

Senator Schumer demanded. “The Senate must evolve like it has many times before.

The Senate was designed to evolve and has evolved many times in our history.

“The fight for the ballot is as old as the Republic. Over the coming weeks, the Senate

will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges

facing our democracy. We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work

with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules

on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our

democracy: free and fair elections.”

Meanwhile, King III insisted that President Biden and members of Congress use the

same energy and force they mustered in 2021 to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

“You delivered for bridges, now deliver for voting rights,” King III asserted.

Reportedly, the King family plans to join local groups in a rally in Phoenix on

January 15, the date of King’s birthday,

“[We wish] to restore and expand voting rights to honor Dr. King’s legacy,” the

family wrote in a statement. Further, the family and others plan to march across the

Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.

They also plan to hold a rally and march across a bridge in Phoenix, reportedly to

draw a comparison to the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma,

Alabama, for voting rights for African Americans.

“The Senate must pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights

Advancement Act and ensure the Jim Crow filibuster doesn’t stand in the way,” the

King family stated.

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