Monday, January 18, 2010

When They Reminisce Over You: The Legacy Of Dr. Martin Luther King

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So here we are, another Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Across the country and maybe even in some parts of the world the elders will reflect on their experiences from the Civil Rights Movement. They'll speak highly of their proudest moments participating in the sit-ins, marches with the Dr. King and others, boycotts, crossing arms and inspiring one another by singing "We Shall Overcome" and "Lift Every Voice And Sing"--the Black National Anthem, organizing voter registration, and bravely risking their lives to end segregation and Jim Crow laws.

And while they share their finest moments, somewhere else this day will bring back those vivid sad moments, as in my mother's case, of a dark night illuminated by a burning cross. Then from others the battle scars from unleashed dogs, racist cops, and the devastating force of water from hoses may be revealed.

Then if you tarry a while longer in their presence, some elders will close their eyes and moan at the memory of four little girls murdered in a church bombing, Emmitt Till's open coffin, and the smell of burnt "Strange Fruit" mixed with the fragrant blooms of southern trees.

And finally while still in that moment, they'll recall how just when they had accepted in their hearts Dr. King's method of non-violence and hope was re-born, King was violently silenced by an assassinator's bullet. They'll pause then as the exact moment they heard the sad news floods back to their memories. The rage and deep sorrow will play across their faces for a short moment before they snap back to the present. "That was the past, baby. We've come along way since then. Now it's time for you young people to do what you were put on this earth to do!"

Yeah, there will be a lot of reflection today, but will we and the younger ones really care to listen and take it in? Not so much what was done but how they made it through, how they overcame it mentally and spiritually. As I write this post, the REAL story of the day is Golden Globes winners not MLK Day observances on NBC's morning news. The coverage of the traditional parade-which will be rained out, but not delayed this year--will come later. But once the credits roll what's next?

So today will young people especially appreciate the correlation between Dr. King, President Obama--both Nobel Peace Prizes recipients--AND Haiti's once proud history? No? Then let's spend today and everyday showing them. And in the process hopefully we"ll discover something new about ourselves and our collective history in this country.

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