CNN asked activists and athletes fighting for equality in the Black, Latino, Asian American, Native American and Muslim American communities to reflect on King's words and his legacy at a time when America is deeply divided after last year's racial reckoning and the insurrection at the US Capitol earlier this month.
Each of them selected a quote from the civil rights movement leader and shared why it resonates with them. Here are their responses, some of which have been edited for clarity:
Huerta, a Mexican American civil rights icon
, formed a farmworkers union with Cesar Chavez
and is president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation
. She chose a quote from a Dr. King's speech titled "The Three Evils of Society
Why did Huerta pick that quote?
"Racism is a sickness. Many Americans with that sickness stormed the nation's Capitol recently as racism feeds fascism. Racism stems from ignorance and creates, hate, fear violence and destruction," Huerta said.
"Dr. Martin Luther King warned us that racism threatened the very foundation of our democracy. Racism began with slavery, the oppression of workers, the subjugation of women and children."
Huerta said that a national effort is needed to save the United States' democracy from fascism and to end the racism which "is so ingrained in our body politic."
"We have no choice but to heal."
Cullors is an artist, political strategist and co-founder and executive director of Black Lives Matter
. She chose a quote from Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
Why did Cullors pick that quote?
"On January 6, the world witnessed a failed attempted coup by White supremacists extremists. These are the same people who have taunted, humiliated and threatened Black Lives Matter members and our leadership. And while these White supremacists are scary and dangerous, our movement has historically seen the White liberal as a barrier to the freedom of Black people," Cullors said.
"To keep it plain. We need White folks to show up. Showing up in more ways than just saying 'Black Lives Matter' or putting 'Black Lives Matter' on their social media," Cullors added.
"We need white folks to show up by following the leadership of Black folks, the very same Black folks who have transformed this country over and over again. On this MLK day let's remind ourselves that Black people deserve dignity, care and power."