MLK Day: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspire Houston activists in their work for civil rights

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – As an openly gay black man, Ashton P. Woods know firsthand the barriers that exist for underrepresented and underrepresented communities in Houston.

On the 93rd birthday week of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the organizer Black Lives Matter Houston said that while a lot of progress has been made in the fight for equity, there is still much work to be done.

“I think about the voting rights bill that’s being put before Congress. I remember Dr. King saying it not long before he was assassinated, and I’m paraphrasing here, how worried he was. about the small minority of people who fear rejection. Woods said, “It’s the same today and back then, still the same. Nothing changes. We’re talking about the same thing here, the same thing that my grandmother went through.”

Shelly Baker, founder Say her name TX said voting rights were also on her mind. Her organization was formed after the death of Breonna Taylor in 2020 to campaign for racial justice and police reform. Similar to Black Lives Matter Houston, both organizations are mostly known for their work towards promoting racial equality and police reform. Woods said that to address social justice, they must have a broader lens and look at systemic barriers that exist in education, health care, employment, housing, etc.

“We can’t just focus on one thing because if you fix a lot of things at once, you’re improving everyone’s quality of life,” says Woods. “Dr King is also calling for a higher minimum wage. So I’m looking at the civil rights leaders who came before us and see that we’re still asking for the same thing. Why cost of living? still so high, but pay has not yet gone up?”

Woods overcame a number of adversities throughout his life. He grew up with a learning disability, became gay in high school, was homeless as a teenager, lost friends to suicide, moved to Houston after relocating from Hurricane Katrina, and now are living with HIV.

He claims he also had ties to police officers where he was profiled and treated unfairly because of his race. Now, he’s turned that pain into purpose, inspired by Dr. King to help others in their own struggles. He said he is currently helping a young student who has been sexually harassed and bullied.

“Dr King always shows up and when he can’t, he shows up in his own way,” Woods said. “I never want a kid to have to go to the bathroom and have lunch at school, because their parents don’t see the humanity in them when they identify as LGBT.”

Baker and Woods acknowledge that citizenship and social justice activism is hard work and can be consumed. But Dr. King’s legacy reminds them why the war was worth it.

“Dr. King inspires me because he doesn’t give up. He doesn’t give up, even when it’s difficult, he finds strength in his convictions and beliefs and he was right with it. there,” Baker said.

“Finding your peace, your therapy and the things you need to do to get you through what you’ll find here as an activist, because your health matters too. We don’t. must be a robot. We can’t just say Woods.

On difficult days for Baker, she recalls how Dr. King relied on her faith to help him through the tough times.

“Sometimes I feel like giving up, I’m reminded that this journey and this light is not something I can give up, because I truly love my community and I truly believe in them. So I have to believe in myself.” Baker.

She faced her own difficulties, growing up as an adopted child, but completed a Master’s degree in social work. She recognizes the opportunities she is given to succeed and hopes to share those resources with those who may be struggling, like Dr. King.

“He was provided with a great education. His family didn’t have financial hardship. He still didn’t ignore the fact that those were the things he needed to use,” Baker said. to better himself, but also to serve his community,” Baker said.

As Baker looks to the future, she said she hopes to see more acceptance, collaboration and guidance among the older and younger generation of community activists.

Woods said his organization will focus on elections and education next year.

For stories across Houston’s diverse communities, follow Rosie Nguyen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Dais Johnston

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