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Communities of Color Leader Fights for Progress

Marcus Mundy says King’s message more important than ever

Beverly Corbell | 1/14/2020, 11 a.m.
Mundy said King had such an influence on him that he often looks back at King’s language for inspiration.
Marcus Mundy of the Coalition of Communities of Color works to advance racial justice by organizing collective, cross-culture allies. Pictured at his downtown office, Mundy says the messages of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., America’s foremost civil rights leader, influences his life on a daily basis. Photo by Beverly Corbell

Editor’s Note: As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Portland Observer invited leaders of the African American community to reflect on the relevance of his message today. Marcus Mundy, president of the Coalition of Communities of Color, shared his thoughts about the civil rights leader:

Marcus Mundy was only 9 or 10 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, but his parents made sure he knew what the great man stood for. Mundy’s father was from Alabama and his mother was from Louisiana, so they knew first-hand the injustices that King railed against.

“They knew

of him, knew of his issues and imbued in us a sense of pride, of discipline, of working hard, all the things that he spoke about in his messaging for our families and our race, they taught us,” Mundy said. “He was peers with my parents. My dad is in Tuskegee, (Alabama) and he (King) did a lot of his work in Montgomery, (Ala.).”

He said King’s pronouncement for equality became more significant to him as he grew older and he internalized King’s words to the point that he now often thinks of some of the civil rights leader’s more memorable passages in his day-to-day life.

“When you’re young, you don’t get into it as much, but over time you see the resonance of his message, you see how important it is,” he said. “I’m talking now to city leaders on a couple of civic ideas and quoting him from his letter from a Birmingham Jail, about how “wait” almost always means “never” and it’s like these are things you grow up with, and they just naturally flow off your tongue and in your thoughts.”

King was writing about things 50 years ago that resonant today, Mundy said.

“It’s just as real – that people in power don’t want to share power. They don’t think you’re as good as them, as smart as them, as capable as them, as strategic as them,” he said.

Mundy said King had such an influence on him that he often looks back at King’s language for inspiration.

“Whether I’m talking about the code change at city housing or homelessness issues or who gets to decide how a campaign is run in the city of Portland and the state of Oregon,” he said, “it’s beautiful that his words were so beautiful and striking, and it’s miserably sad that you’re still dealing with the same stuff today.”

Mundy said when he is disheartened by the futility of the struggle, he thinks of the necessity of the struggle and the relentless nature of the battle for full equality.

“You shouldn’t have to fight for those things,” he said. “You shouldn’t ever have to fight for what should be a basic human right, and certainly shouldn’t have to still be fighting for the same things that were exposed decades ago.”

The Coalition of Communities of Color, of which Mundy is president, is an alliance of 19 culturally-specific community based organizations with representation from communities of color, with a mission “to address the socioeconomic disparities, institutional racism, and inequity of services experienced by our families, children and communities, and to organize our communities for collective action resulting in social change to obtain self-determination, wellness, justice and prosperity.”