Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King's Gift to Obama

He has been gone now for more years than he lived but, on the birthday we celebrate today, Martin Luther King Jr. would have been only 80 years old.

Michelle and Barack Obama are doing community service in his honor and urging all Americans to do the same. In more ways than one, the inauguration of an African-American president tomorrow is part of his legacy.

Martin Luther King preached nonviolence to the oppressed. “Our weapon is love,” he told them, and he used it with stunning force.

At the dawn of TV, he brought into American homes images of peaceful Southern protesters beaten, driven with high-pressure hoses and arrested without fighting back. Their body rhetoric exposed racial hatred as never before.

Then, in 1966 Dr. King wrote for me about the apartment he had rented in Chicago’s slums to connect with gang members: “I was shocked at the venom they poured out against the world.”

He asked them to join Freedom Marches in Mississippi and they did in carloads, where “they were to be attacked by tear gas. They were to protect women and children with no other weapons but their own bodies...

“They learned in Mississippi and returned to teach in Chicago the beautiful lesson of acting against evil by renouncing force...

“And in Chicago the test was sterner. These marchers endured not only the filthiest kind of verbal abuse but also barrages of rocks and sticks and eggs and cherry bombs...

“It was through the Chicago marches that our promise to them—that nonviolence achieves results--was redeemed and their hopes for a better life rekindled, For they saw that a humane police force, in contrast to police in Mississippi, could defend the exercise of Constitutional rights as well as enforce the law in the ghetto.”

Some of those young men Martin Luther King helped to grow up and away from their worst selves to exercise their civil rights must have been among the millions of Americans of all races to vote for Barack Obama in November.

We celebrate his birthday today, but tomorrow will be the fulfillment of Martin Luther King's dream.


Anonymous said...

Richmond poet and civil rights figure LaVerne Byrd Smith reads a poem she wrote the day Martin Luther King Jr. died:

Unknown said...

One of King's most central legacies often ignored in holiday remembrances is his stance against global poverty and his encouragement for all Americans to learn about and combat it.

Download a free 2-page inspirational flyer about Martin Luther King Jr. and what he fought for in this exact regard here:

Think about the global poverty statistics included in the flyer - those in King's time - and those in the present - and get this information to others. This would certainly be an excellent way at both honoring King's vision, and opening others' eyes to the currently still dreadful state of humanity.

**Can you take to heart the words King spoke just 4 days before he was gunned down? That's what this flyer will ask you. Take the King Challenge - in his own words - and see.

You can also get the flyer by emailing the author at