Monday, January 17, 2011

Today is more than a US federal holiday...














"Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. I believe in this method because I think it is the only way to reestablish a broken community."

"It is the method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the conscience of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride, and irrationality have allowed their consciences to sleep."

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy. We have seen many changes take place in America because of Martin Luther King. Ronald Regan in 1986 signed a law establishing the third January as a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day.

He was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929. During a time when black people did not have the rights which they have today. He experienced his first racial discrimination encounter as a child, when his long time white neighbors refused to let him play with their boys.
He wrote later about a time that he and his father were asked to move to the back of a shoe store to be fitted for shoes. He rmembered  leaving without buying anything.

On another occasion he and his black schoolteacher are ordered to give up their seats to white passengers during a lengthy bus ride. When they didn't move right away, the driver started cursing them, King later recalled.

He said that he almost decided heed the driver, but that his teacher pointed out that they had to obey the law. So they stood in the aisle the whole 90 miles to Atlanta.

While attending Oglethorpe Elementary School, Miss Lemon, his teacher taught him to be independent. She taught him if there was an injustice, he could rebel, but still keep his dignity and find quiet ways to resist. She inspired her students to learn about black history and take pride in their heritage.

He went on to attend Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta. On one occasion he and his teacher were riding on a bus. When the bus filled up with people, the driver asked them to stand up and let two white people have their seats. It was the law. Martin saw the injustice of it, and he never forgot that incident.

At 15 years of age he entered Morehouse College. He became assistant minister of the Ebenezer Baptist church where his father was minister. The following year he graduated from college. He was only 19 years old.

He then attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. While at Crozer he studied the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, a man who brought about changes in India through "passive resistance". Martin saw this method of non-violent resistance as the answer to the unfair treatment blacks received in America.

He went on to Boston University to work on his Ph.D.. It was there that he met Coretta Scott who would become his wife. They would eventually have four children; two boys and two girls. After he graduated from Boston University he became the minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

In Montgomery blacks and whites were segregated, they attend different schools and sat in separate sections on buses. Many times blacks would be forced to stand on a bus even though there were empty seats at the front of the bus or what was the "white" section of the bus. It was on December 1, 1955 that a lady by the name of Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus.

The police were called and she was arrested. Parks' act of defiance became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including boycott leader Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to launch him to national prominence in the civil rights movement.

They organized a boycott of the bus system. Refusing to ride the buses until they received fair treatment. The newspapers heard of the plan and wrote an article which helped in getting the word out.

The boycott lasted for more than a year and people walked, rode bicycles, and rode in car pools to get to work. The Supreme Court would ruke in December of 1956 that bus segregation was unlawful.

By 1957 Dr. King established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and he became its president.

The Jim Crow laws that said blacks were to be denied certain rights began to be challenged in many cities in America. Black students across the country began to stage "sit-ins" at lunch counters.

Up until this time they had been forbidden food service at eating places. The "freedom riders" began riding buses from state to state and doing "sit-ins" at lunch counters and "white" waiting rooms. Peaceful marches continued to be organized and thousands were arrested because they were taking part. On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King and other leaders led a march into Washington D.C. Over 250,000 people marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial.

It was here Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" message. He said, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Here is more on that speech; "I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells.

Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.

So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles,

Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Hw was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway in 1964. At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

Dr. King was jailed 30 times for his resistance. He conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was awarded five honorary degrees, was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963, was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated by James Earl Ray.

The US Congress votes to allow an annual national holiday in King's honour on the third Monday of every January. The first King holiday was observed in 1986.

King was just 39 years old at the time of his assassination. He had done much to convince white Americans of the need for civil reform and had given his African-American constituency an eloquent and authoritative voice.

His adherence to the principles of nonviolence and noncooperation advocated by Mahatma Gandhi were not popular with all African-Americans but they enabled King to retain the moral high ground in the battle for equality.

Certainly the institutional impediments to equality have been removed but even today terrible hate crimes are still being committed. There is much more to do.



















We should think first about serving others in order to find our purpose, rather than focused on the potential for reward or punishment. This is another one of my favorite quotes from King:

"If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

Today I remember and embrace the legacy of Dr. King, for it exemplifies values of hope and peaceful co-existence between people of all diverse backgrounds.

GO out and be of service... Make it a great dia!