LIVINGSTON, NJ — Ahead of Martin Luther King (MLK) Day on Jan. 18, when the Livingston community will be invited to participate in the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion’s (LCDI) annual “Day of Service,” Livingston High School junior Krishna Bhatt is sharing his recent discovery of how King’s activism was influenced by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

Prompted by Livingston youth mentor Falguni Pandya to examine this topic, Bhatt has been inspired by King’s ability to “maintain his peaceful approach” despite those who incited violence against his followers.

“MLK was one to call for a change in society that has remained the same for countless generations following the civil rights [movement in the 1960s],” said Bhatt. “I admire his leadership of the civil rights movement and his ability to endure even after his followers were beaten, jailed, spat on and even killed for what they believed in.”

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Bhatt noted that although many leaders have been able to tolerate the violence of oppressors, Gandhi consistently advocated for and employed non-violence during his protests against the British Empire’s occupation and rule of India. 

In his assessment of this time period, Bhatt has been inspired by Gandhi’s impressive self-restraint and ability to convince his followers that revolting against British occupation would have resulted in a great deal of bloodshed and many deaths.

“MLK was attracted to the same values as Gandhi, as he accomplished his goals using the same methods—peaceful protests and nonviolence,” said Bhatt.

He also pointed out that MLK “learned about Gandhi and his message of non-violence” through Gandhi’s writing, which states, “While the Montgomery boycott was going on, India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

“MLK looked to Gandhi to learn the power of love or rather power of not hating anyone, not even the people who were committing evil acts,” said Bhatt. “It is this greatness of MLK that made him one of the most admired social rights leaders along with Nelson Mandela.”

Gandhi described his nonviolence as satyagraha, meaning “truth-force” or “love-force.” His peaceful philosophy included seeking truth and love while refusing to participate in something one believes is wrong.

As a seminary student, King explained that he “came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

As a reverend, he preached about Jesus’ pacifism, saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and also telling a crowd in Brooklyn that “Christ showed us the way, and Gandhi in India showed it could work.”

Although he was only 19 years old at the time of Gandhi’s assassination and never had the opportunity to meet, MLK often spoke about a month-long visit he took to India after reading about Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy of resistance. It was there that MLK met with Gandhi’s son, cousin, grandsons and other relatives.

"Gandhi, representing the Indian way of considering the whole world as one family, inspired young MLK to lean on his own faith and become a force that changed the history and trajectory of millions of people around him," said Pandya. “Gandhi and MLK are two great men in two distant lands tied by one single idea of non-violence.”

Although Livingston’s 2021 MLK Day of Service will function differently this year due to the pandemic, many local organizations and student groups are still planning several charitable activities in honor of the annual event.

From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday outside the rear entrance to Livingston Town Hall (357 S. Livingston Ave.), LCDI will be hosting a donation drive, coordinating donations for Sanskriti of NJ, The Livingston Public Schools HSA/PTA/PTO, the Kiwanis Club of Livingston, Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors and The Livingston Chinese Association.

There will also be a virtual video service available on the LCDI Facebook page featuring some of these participating organizations.

When preparing donations, participants are asked to have all items bagged or boxed with the name of which organization the items should be donated to. Additional information about items needed for each of these donations can be found BY CLICKING HERE.

All donors should arrive with contents in their trunk or back seat of their vehicle. Upon arrival, all donors will be asked to wear a mask and to remain in their vehicle while volunteers retrieve the donations.

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