How often is “Happy Birthday”, the song by Stevie Wonder, played to celebrate people’s birthdays? It features quite a lot on Radio 2 … but how many people realise the song was written by Wonder in 1981 as part of the campaign to have Martin Luther King celebrated in a national holiday? Ronald Reagan established such a day in 1983 and ever since King’s birthday has been remembered in the USA on the third Monday of January – today this year!
But, as we have often said, we should remember all those who fought (and those who died) for civil rights in the USA in addition to King. In many ways he was just the spokesman for a wider movement – a spokesman who for most of the time at least was acceptable to to whites, and is now celebrated as an American leader. Others are often not remembered, but they played a key role in challenging the system of segregation and discrimination that was so widespread – and some of which survives. We do well to remember Wonder’s lyrics:
I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition
‘Cause it should never be
Just ’cause some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
That they should make it become an illusion
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King
Happy birthday – Happy birthday to you!