Friday, January 21, 2005

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Me

I was trolling around the Net and the Blogosphere over the past few days and noticed that I had not seen very much on the annual commemoration to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In my home country the U.S.A. we have a national holiday on January 17th set aside to honor his great legacy and to help all Americans to never forget Dr. King or the turbulent times in our history during which he lived. I went over to Kenya Hudson’s blog Ambiguous Adventure and couldn’t find a thing. “Shame on you, Kenya.” Kenya by the way is doing some excellent writing on diverse African issues from an African-American (?) academic viewpoint. You need to go on over there and read her articles and while you are at it checkout the group blog at Ethiopundit as well. I wish I could write and analyze interesting and important issues like these fine blog authors.

Dr. King would have been 76 years old this month, born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia U.S.A. (“Georgia! Have mercy! You had to be alive then - during the U.S. Civil Rights Struggle of the 1960’s - to understand! God bless the strong and good people of Georgia who lived during this important and powerful time in modern American History”).

Anyway, like I was saying, the great civil rights leader Dr. King would have been 76 years old this week if he hadn’t died from an
assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. I was there growing up in America at that time, just a young teenager back then, and I remember____ the pain of his death and the feeling of loss is still there inside of me, and it still hurts and shocks me even to this day when I remember. As I write these words let it be known that I speak for millions and millions who were also there on that day, in America, and we share that loss together___ Black and White, Red and Brown and Yellow___ color don’t matter to us when you talk about the mourning and longing for Dr. King in the hearts and minds of my people in America.

Now today on January 21st I am making a second attempt of getting this little article of mine about Dr. King written and posted (published) to my blog. I tried to publish it on the 19th but the software application at Blogger was messing up, so I had to save it as a draft and wait. And while I was waiting I began to do some thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. and about what I had written and I came to the decision that it wasn’t good enough, not for Dr. King. So this is a better effort for my readers, especially those of you too young to remember him, to share with you information and some of my personal views on the legacy of this great American.

How I’m doing Martin? I’ve been thinking about you all night and I want to get it right for you Sir. I want to get it right for all those good people up there with you too. Yessir!

Now the “
Rockin’ 60’s” was a great and exciting time to be alive I’m gonna tell ya, and yet The Sixties was a terrible time too especially if you were a young person, because everything was so darn confusing (at least in America) like the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War and the protests and violence on the streets and on college campuses and on television (live video w/ body counts from the war zones with breakfast every morning before school), and then there were the assassinations of three of our most beloved public figures like President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy. If you include Malcom X in there you got 4 and you could just keep on going back then…people were dead and dying everywhere, especially those poor helpless people over in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. It was often a terrible and traumatic period and there were many dark days for a whole bunch of folks back then.

But while we suffered what we felt were unbearable losses many of us have learned over the decades which followed what these great leaders were trying to show us, trying to teach us, dragging us kicking and scratchin’ and resisting into a new era for our nation and for the whole world. MLK, JFK, RFK: they were not perfect men, but they were exemplary in the way that they tried to live their lives and they helped lead us toward the Light in times of Great Darkness and Despair. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader was head-and-shoulders above his peers of the day, and it took many people around the world years to understand that fact.

If I were asked today what his legacy means to me I would have to say:

“Dr. King showed my generation great courage and great compassion for humankind, more than anyone I can remember or name. He stood up to be counted and to lend his voice and finally his very life to the cause of true freedom, peace among men and women, and justice. He did this in a way that everyone could see and understand, standing up tall against great odds and adversity___ against 100’s of years of ignorance, fear, greed, and hatred imported from abroad into a beautiful, bountiful and pristine land until that fateful invasion of the year 1492.

Dr. King helped many of us to understand what we have to do in these United States of America and throughout our hemisphere and the world to bring the promise of freedom and prosperity to not just a few, not just many people, not just Americans, but to all mankind.

Although he spoke in his famous 1963 “
I Have A Dream” speech of being privelaged to have "...gone to the Mountaintop...” and shared with us his dream of the future, he reminded us with his life and times and ultimately with his death that the road will be long and hard ahead, and that all of us must make our best efforts to continue the progress and good works of that fateful time in history and the struggles for freedom by many good people who came long before us. That the struggles and challenges to make a better world for all mankind never has an end, but continues with each generation, until our last days on Earth have finally come (hopefully not too soon).”

This is what the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. means to me personally, a simple man who was there in America during his lifetime. Now let me share with you some interesting information I have found online about Dr. King this past week:

· The Seattle Times -
Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
· Stanford University – The Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project
· Kings Legacy – Interview with Clayborne Carson of Stanford University
Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project – Washington D.C.
· NY Times (1/17/05) –
How the British Inspired Dr. King’s Dream

Clayborne Carson of Stanford University and Ralph E. Luker of George Mason University are two of America's leading historians on the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King. Here is a link to an interesting article on Dr. King from Ralph E. Luker published on the History News Network site titled "Asking Dr. King" . You should also visit the group blog authored by Ralph Luker and other outstanding U.S. historians titled Cliopatria . Luker and Clayborne worked jointly on the Stanford University Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project.

Note also that the Stanford University Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project website has info on Dr. King’s position(s) regarding the
Vietnam War. There is a link to a speech entitled “Beyond Vietnam” that Dr. King delivered at the famous Riverside Church on Manhattan-NYC’s Upper Westside on April 4, 1967 - one year to the day before his brutal assassination in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. You may view or download the document by clicking on the link provided on the Stanford MLK Papers Project site. I want to leave you with two excerpts from Dr. King's speech "Beyond Vietnam" delivered at New York City's Riverside Church on that brisk April morning in 1967:

“I came to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”

…“Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humilitiy that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our own inner being may be sensitivie to its guidance. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us…”

Words from the heart and soul of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He loved and worked hard for the sake of all living things on our great Mother Earth. In fond remembrance.


Kenya A. Hudson said...

Though I've been appropriately chastised, I tend to be stubborn so I must respond. I thought about putting something up for King day, but I wanted to stick with African affairs-related issues. Now, I know there were all sorts of creative angles I could have addressed with King and Africa and that is why I feel "appropriately" chastised.

Rambling Rose Cottage said...

Thank you for an insightful post.