Some Thoughts in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Does freedom ring? Does freedom have a sound? Does it resonate? I am not sure.
Today is the day that some Americans celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I, for one, have often pondered on the life and works of this great man. He probably did not know that he was great–most great people don’t. They simply live with passion and commitment for what they believe. They also are often carried by the trade winds of their times and by circumstances. It is their response to these circumstances and where they find themselves within the trade winds of life that often defines great people.
As an educator, my primary role is to teach. I often teach students the value of reading and analysis by using the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was Dr. King’s studies of the revolutionary nonviolent independence movement of India ‘s Mahatma Gandhi that inspired this great man to action that helped to advance the movement for racial/human equity in the United States . I am always attempting to inspire students and to encourage them to read and to explore outside of the bounds of their physical existence. In this way, I believe, many can travel and transform in ways that do not require an air ticket or ocean passage.
I most remember two incidents involving Dr. King. One was in the late nineteen sixties when he came to my hometown of Boston , Massachusetts . He led a march down Boston ‘s Columbus Avenue to the Boston Commons. Our parents encouraged us to go and march. We did. I was too young and politically and socially unsophisticated to understand the importance of that day that moment that era. Second, I remember the day of Dr. King’s death. I, as many, was angered. I walked out into the night looking to dissipate some of this anger and to observe the goings-on that were the aftermath of the tragedy of Dr. King’s death.
There was no place for my anger, or for anyone else’s. The well-known Rhythm and Blues performer and veteran James Brown was scheduled to perform a concert in
Boston . He instead of being merely a performer took on the role as peacemaker and conciliator. The actions of social unrest proceeded anyway.
The later sixties was not a time when a person coming of age like myself seriously considered the value of nonviolence as a revolutionary approach to social change in America . Rather, the rhetoric and action of more forceful activists caught my attention as I grew in my political and social development. It is only in my later years that I have come to value the nonviolent approach of Dr. King in regards to the civil rights movement within the United States . It seems much more reasonable in light of the response that many actions of social change receive in this country. Although lives were still lost in the nonviolent approach to social change here in the United States , I believe those losses were minimized by the approach advocated by Dr. King.
In my mind, Dr. King remains a martyr–one of the some who gave their lives to a just and Godly cause–freedom and equity. As for me, I take this Monday off as a day of rest and reflection. I truly can’t always feel freedom resonating within my soul although I am free to move about as I please. I walk where I want, eat where I want, I write what I think and buy what I can. I protest the fact that some people in this country and around the world cannot move or express themselves as freely.
I also evaluate my womanhood and servant-hood in the light of a s/hero like Coretta Scott King. There is no way I can approach her in commitment, patience or poise. She is more than a great mans widow; she herself has accepted a high form of leadership, servant-hood, advocacy and legacy. I salute her and her family. I wonder about the rest of us. The people who immigrate to this country and look down on African Americans; the people who don’t realize that the doors of equity that are open here in this country were opened with blood and with struggle. I also protest the people who continue to dominate and marginalize others economically and socially, here and around the world, as if there will never be a reckoning for their actions.
I am encouraged, however, that the most recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize is a woman–a Muslim woman. As I am sure you know Dr. King was a recipient of this esteemed award for his work in the area of nonviolent change. I am thus encouraged that no matter how far I am from the ideal, in the real, my sentiments, my actions and my commitment remain firm and informed fully by the reality of the history and the choices that I have lived, breathed, read, experienced and made. I resonate freely with that sound–it even rings.