- Faith & Family
On Monday, our nation will once again pause to reflect upon the life of one of our heroes, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There will be parades and concerts. Many radio and television stations will broadcast special programs with songs, sermons and news footage that will retell the story of how a young Baptist preacher followed God’s calling and assumed leadership in America’s civil rights movement. And there will be commentary from esteemed scholars who will explain why King’s contribution was important to Blacks in America, to our entire nation and even to the world.
But while some of us hold hands and sing We Shall Overcome, there will be young Black men and women from Liberty City to Homestead who will honestly wonder why there’s so much hype about King. For them and perhaps even to some of us, if we were honest, honoring Dr. King has become little more than a perfunctory — the thrill is gone. But let’s consider the King who emerged after his victorious March on Washington, after he was applauded for his I Have a Dream speech. That is the King that pointed to the “triplets of social misery” — racism, economic inequality and militarism.
We have been overcome by cultural amnesia and forgotten that King admitted that if he were to be known as a drum major he hoped it would be as one for justice, righteousness and peace — not for his awards, his degrees or his bling-bling. This is the King that our troubled youth need to understand and hear from today.
As Blacks continue to suffer from record unemployment, escalating Black-on-Black violence, increasing HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths and many more of the world’s ills, King’s willingness to sacrifice his life becomes more relevant.
As an average private citizen, he challenged our nation’s moral memory. He asked the U.S. to make good on its promises of freedom and justice and urged our nation to reclaim long abandoned notions of democracy that had been lost under aged documents or twisted by selfish men of power.
The radical King provoked Southern whites, Capitol Hill warmongers, and the Black bourgeoisie. He enraged conservatives and alienated liberals – all of whom cared more about their own good fortune and holding on to it rather than making a way for “the least of these.” But not King.
He was a true drum major but only if we take him in his totality — as a flawed human being who on behalf of all humankind made the ultimate sacrifice — his life. How many of us would chose to lead the parade, as King did, knowing that we were marching to death’s doors?
King’s mission remains unfilled. We still have much work to do.