Thursday, January 15, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr. On His Birthday

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929. On Monday, we observe a federal holiday dedicated to Dr. King, but on his real birthday, let's take a moment to observe his words. Let us celebrate how far we have come and remind ourselves how far we all still need to go to make a better world for all people.

At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, Dr. King gave this immortal speech before 250,000 people while standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial...
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men -- yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

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 jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by 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 South Carolina, 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 -- so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, 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 the table of brotherhood.

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

I have a dream that my four little 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 down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and 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 that I go back to the South with. 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, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's 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. And 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 snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes 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 molehill of Mississippi -- from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow 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!"


Kit said...

Now let us pray that the King estate won't file a cease and desist order for copyright infringement.

Bob said...

Stirring speech. As was his last one the night before he died:
"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I'm happy, tonight.
I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

The man could put some words together couldn't he?

ScottDS said...

Though according to Oscar voters this morning, all of this is meaningless. :-)

BevfromNYC said...

ScottDS - It's a liberal film industry problem, since it is film industry professionals who nominate for each category. So they can't blame it on anyone but themselves. I would call that "subconscious racism" similar to what Sharpton claims afflicts police departments around the country. They are subconsciously racists without even knowing it and that must be fixed.

Tennessee Jed said...

Selma was nominated for best picture so Al should back off. Still, Clint Eastwood's Americn Sniper was nominated as was Robert Duval. Must be liberal reach out year

Kit said...

But it was not enough Oscars for the first feature film about Reverend Martin Luther King to be made.

Really, only took them 50 years. There was a so-so mini-series in the late-70s and early-80s and a very preachy, very silly cartoon in the 1990s starring Whoopi Goldberg.

Anthony said...

Dr. King was one for the books alright. He (and countless others) sacrificed much to help America in its never ending quest to live up to its perfect vision of itself.

The world (and even many Americans) loves to talk crap about America and race, but America is a land of opportunity for all in a way that most of the rest of the world (including Europe) isn't. Having the wrong skin color doesn't hold anybody back from anything.

We're not the Garden of Eden (who is?) so there is room for improvement, but we should be proud of where we are.

Kit said...


Amen. On every point.

Critch said...

Dr. King was in fact quite conservative on many levels. He knew who to use as examples for the press, Rosa Lee parks comes to mind. He told black people that they had to make themselves economically important as well as politically important. A black leader today, holding the same values as Dr. King would probably be considered reactionary by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, both of whom aren't fit to tie Dr. King's shoelaces. I'm not sure why Hollywood has waited this long to do a picture about Dr. King, maybe because we already has so much film footage of him, but I don't know....

BevfromNYC said...

Critch - I would imagine that it has taken this long to do a movie about Dr. King because there is no way to win. There will be complaints that it is too this or not enough that or why didn't they or why did they. There are so many people who have first hand connection to him (or think they do) and his legacy that his children are even fighting over who has the rights to his "I Have A Dream" speech. He has reached mythical status. Lord help the person (Oliver Stone, maybe) who does an "interpretation" of his personal life.

See what happened to The Kennedys mini series with Katie Holmes - the History Channel, Showtime, A&E, FX, Starz all declined to air it because it didn't necessarily show the Kennedy clan in a good light. Btw, I watch it...there was nothing new being revealed and frankly, it was really boring.

AndrewPrice said...

Hi everybody!

Several of you have sent me emails since I haven't commented in a couple days. Thanks for your concern! :) I am alive! My legs are doing much better, but I'm dealing with a secondary issue that has all but immobilized me the last couple days -- nature's sense of humor causes one condition to worse as the other gets better. //rolls eyes.

Sorry for not updating you sooner or commenting, but it kind of took me by surprise.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Now who is this guy again? Clearly, he's some racist if he thinks that having a color-blind society is an answer to racism. Does Rev. Al know about this skunk?

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - Glad to see you are alive! Please stay that way, okay? Really, I mean it...8-]

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