Thursday, April 3, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr.: January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
He freed a lotta people but it seems the good they die young
I just looked around and he's gone

Didn't you love the things that they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?
And we'll be free
Some day soon, it's gonna be one day

"Abraham, Martin and John" by Dion & the Belmonts

Today, April 4, 2008, is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King died that day, the victim of a bullet to the head, on the 2nd floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee while visiting in support of striking sanitation workers.

Jesse Jackson, who was with Dr. King at the time of the shooting, confirms that the last words spoken by Dr. King were to his friend & musician Ben Branch, who was to perform at a gathering later that evening. Those words, according to the 2006 book,
At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68, were "Ben, make sure you play Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty." It was his friend, the great, Grammy-award winning gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, who sang the song, his favorite hymn, at his funeral at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he is buried.

James Earl Ray subsequently confessed to Dr. King's murder on March 10, 1969.

Below is a couple of clips of speeches given by Dr. King. The first one is part of the final speech that Dr. King gave the night before his death at the age of 39. Next is a clip of an anti-war speech given by Sen. Robert Kennedy, who also assassinated in 1968--2 months & 2 days after Dr. King's death. Another shorter clip of Dr. King follows that.

Dr. King helped to introduce hope & the very concept of freedom to people of every different color & every walk of life, many of whom may have known the literal meanings of the words "hope" & "freedom", but who had never been personally familiar with the ideas that the words represent.

In the song, "America The Beautiful," I am reminded of the man who set all of us free:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

There is no way to properly describe what this world lost when Dr. King was taken from us. For so many--then & now--he was the very symbol of the potential our country had/has to be so much more than we think we are.

Even in death, he still reminds us today that what the world sees on the outside is the least of who we really are as beloved children of God.

Because of all he did for the Kingdom of God on earth while he was still here, he still speaks of his dream & of his undying hope for his beloved country & of his eternal belief that it is right that will make day.

In his historic refusal to give up fighting the good fight, he still gently prods all who care about equality & justice to keep seeking the Promised Land.

Sometimes, it seems we still have so far to go, but, in Dr. King's honor, & because we really have no choice but to do the right thing, we must never allow ourselves to tire, and we must never take our eyes off the prize that Dr. King & so many others have earned with their precious blood. We must gently, yet steadfastly, continue that good fight even when we feel we have no fight left. It's what Dr. King did & it's what any lovers of liberty must do.

Dr. King: "All we say to America is, 'Be true to what you said on paper.' If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions; maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the Freedom of Assembly. Somewhere I read of the Freedom of Speech. Somewhere I read of the Freedom of Press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. So just as I say, we aren't going to let any dogs or water hoses turn us around; we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around."

"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. 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."

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy: "I don't think any of us will be satisfied in the United States until that war is brought to an honorable end and American soldiers are brought back here to the United States."

Dr. King: "One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done."

"It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, 'That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not...'"

In the interest of complete historical accuracy, the remainder of Dr. King's last quote follows here: "...I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.' That’s the question facing America today."

1 comment:

~Deb said...

Beautiful write up on this...

Thank you.