Isobel Granger vividly recalls listening to the radio newscast on April 4, 1968, at her family’s home in Zimbabwe.
“At first we thought it was a king that died, and then we learned who it was,” said Granger, the first black woman to rise to the rank of inspector with the Ottawa Police Service.
“[I remember] the almost panic on the faces of our parents and others, and realizing someone really important had died.”
His legacy is being remembered this week and, according to Rev. Anthony Bailey of Ottawa’s Parkdale United Church, King’s speeches are still inspiring — and challenging — people in 2018.
“The issues of racism, of poverty and militarism, which he called the ‘three evils’, are still with us today, and we still have a long way to go,” Bailey said on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.
Bailey said King would have plenty to talk about if he were around today.
“We’re on the brink of rhetoric that’s been ratcheted up with respect to nuclear language and threats from Russia and North Korea. We’re still dealing with poverty. It’s a scourge, really,” he said.
“I think one of the things that we’re seeing in terms of the racial issues in Canada, the United States and around the world is that they still require critical thinking and a commitment to engage with a systemic nature of it.… There are systemic ways that people are continually excluded.”
King was a personal source of hope for Bailey after his brother was killed in a racially charged attack in Montreal.
“His words continued to be resonant and helpful in my recovery because they were hope-filled.… That gave me encouragement to carry on and inspire me with his words of racial reconciliation to make that my life’s work,” he said.
Granger recalled visiting a small town in the south of France where a street had been named after King, and thinking it was an example of the impact his work has had around the world.
“The people that assassinated him, I think had they applied some critical thinking they would have realized what they were doing would end up being used for good,” she told Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan.
“I don’t think they realized the power they were giving to the purpose he was on Earth for.”