I got sidetracked this week and I wanted to write a coda to my MLK series; instead, I’ll close in brief. There’s so much material out there, so it will leave me plenty of room for a part 2. Or parts 3, 4, 5, etc. I hope someone learned something and or I slightly changed someone’s view on Dr King.
A freind and I talked about this last week. It’s Robert Kennedy announcing to an Indiana crowd that King had been shot. I’m a little frustrated because I couldn’t find the exact footage I wanted on YouTube, but little is lost in the video below. The thing that sticks out in my mind are those blood-curdling screams of horror when King’s death is announced.
We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
One last thing. Most of you know U2 wrote “Pride (In the Name of Love)” about King – see John Legend’s take in this series’s first post – you may not know they ended the same album, The Unforgettable Fire, with the haunting “MLK”. Listen here.
THE COURT: In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther King, your answer is yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also yes. And the total amount of damages you find for the plaintiffs entitled to is one hundred dollars. Is that your verdict?
THE JURY: Yes.
The Kings v. Jowers. December 8, 1999. From the trial’s transcript posted at The King Center.
Martin Luther King was assasinated on April 4, 1968. By April 5, riots were tearing apart major American cities. Not Boston.
Mayor Kevin White** engineered a a deal that allowed Brown to perform and the legendary local PBS station to carry the show live. Everyone stayed home. Brown’s concert has been local legend for years, and now with the 40th anniversery of King’s death, VH1 has produced a rockDoc on the Boston show.
The Boston Phoenix calls this the greatest concert in Boston history:
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, America’s greatest civil-rights leader, was assassinated in Memphis. Violence erupted in major cities across the county as African-Americans, who had already endured so much, reacted to the loss of a leader who was both spiritual and practical. Mayor Kevin White panicked. Although Boston wasn’t literally burning, like Detroit or Los Angeles, it was approaching an ignition point. He considered canceling all public events, including a James Brown concert at the Garden. Fortunately, his advisers suggested that stopping the show would be viewed as yet another stifling of black expression and could easily start the very rioting they’d hoped to avoid. The mayor made history by meeting with Brown and asking if they could work together to keep the peace. He was less lucky with the local affiliates of the three major TV networks, who all declined to broadcast the show, according to music historian Dick Waterman. Instead, the PBS station, WGBH, stepped in so Brown’s music could reach beyond the Garden’s 14,000 seats and into the living rooms of everyone in Greater Boston. The show was an absolute tour de force. Brown soothed his mourning audience by dedicating the concert to Dr. King and delivering a million-watt performance packed with greats: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Cold Sweat,” “That’s Life,” “Try Me,” “Please, Please, Please,” and more. He invited White to speak to the crowd and the cameras. And when police reacted to fans who rushed the stage at one point, Brown assured them he could handle things himself, pleading, successfully, for everyone to return to their seats. On this night, music literally helped determine the course of Boston’s history. Continue reading
King at 27.. This man had a doctorate from Boston University and was getting arrested and risking his life in order to build a better America for all people at the age of 27. He was murdered at 39.
For those of you who may not be familiar with MLK after “I Have a Dream”, it’s often surprising to know he held some radical views. This speech by King, delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967, is called Why I’m Opposed to the War in Vietnam.
King’s anti-Vietnam speeches caused him to be disinvited from the White House and disallowed from giving scheduled college lectures. The mainstream turned it’s back on King and Time magazine rebuked his words as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi” .
This speech is worth a careful watch or close read; its contemporary relevance is arresting.
Some choice excerpts:
- Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal. Continue reading
I want to blog about it, but I short on time right now. Watch this space for further developments.
In the meantime, enjoy this moving mashup of Dr. King and U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)”.Please take a moment to watch carefully and reflect.
UPDATE: OMFG! I just found this video of John Legend singing “Pride” to a civil rights montage promoting an upcoming History Channel special. God damn I love John Legend.
“…investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.” ~ Barack Obama
This is a call to all thinking people from any walk of life or any political orientation. Please set aside 40 or so minutes to listen to Senator Obama’s address on the subject of race in America. Or, if you prefer, carefully read the speech’s text.
Yes, there is a sentence or two about Senator Obama’s political positions, but 99% of the address is an earnest, thoughtful, sensitive and sophisticated sketch of how race sometimes divides America and the role race plays in American politics. Now, I’m not going to dare place Senator Obama in the rhetorical company of Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X – that requires critical distance and the voice of scholars. I will say that Americans living today have not heard a such a candid, intellectual speech on this topic by an American of Obama’s stature in decades; in that context, today’s address may prove historic.
Obama said everything I try to say when I discuss race in America with others, but Obama does it far more eloquently, skillfully, and far more thoroughly then I. So please, realize that yes, Barack Obama is speaking for himself here and speaking in order to preserve his presidential campaign, but this man is also speaking for me and millions of others like me of all races who wish America could have a factual and enlightened discussion on how to make America great for all people. I hope after you consider the Senator’s words, you can say that he speaks for you, too, irrespective of who you want to occupy the White House come next January.
Here are two excerpts that resonated with me: Continue reading