Do you know what I discovered? I need to know if “anybody’s seen my old friend, Martin—can you tell me where he’s gone?”* I need to talk to him and let him know that I think his dream is slipping away. I’m almost afraid to text any child—of any race—under eighteen years old, and ask what MLK lived and died for. I’m afraid they’ll text back: IDK!
Used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star
Recently, I had a dream that I went “knock, knock, knocking at Heaven’s door” (sorry Bob Dylan: I’m in a musical pun mood today)—trying to get an audience with both Martin and Jesus. I needed to speak with both of them because, if you think Martin’s message is waning after 45 years, poor Jesus’ primary message after 2,000 years (“Love one another as you love yourself”) is almost without resonance in a nation where 77% of people identify as Christians.
Martin wasn’t at home (probably went fishing with Mandela and Gandhi), so I slipped a message under the door.
Used by permission: Bill Day Cagle Cartoons
Dear Dr. King: I know that you are well—who wouldn’t be where you’re living these days and with the lofty company that you’re keeping. I’d love to be a fly on a cloud to hear some of the conversations between you, Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Frederick Douglas, and Harriet Tubman—just to name a few. You must be having the time of your eternal life. Anyway, before I get started into the core of this letter, I want to tell you that I really miss you. The Earth misses you. I first heard about you when you came to Cleveland, Ohio to talk about the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. I was only eight years old. I didn’t actually hear you speak, but I heard enough about your speech to sassily reiterate a part of it (“a change is coming”) to my caretaker Aunt who promptly knocked me down a flight of stairs for being insubordinate when I used that phrase against her child abuse labor dictates. I wrote about it in my book Monsters’ Throwdown in case you care to check it out. Do they have Amazon.com in Heaven?
I got out of ignorance and want—significantly due to your efforts and others like you. I got a great education, had great jobs through the years, lived well because of your efforts, traveled the world, and I have been married to the love of my life for 34 years because you made it clear that equality granted me the right to marry anyone I pleased. I have lived your dream.
But, Dr. King, things are getting’ really crazy down here. Almost everything you fought for is slip-sliding away for one reason or another—either because we aren’t paying attention and we’re throwing your dream away, or others are stealing it from us.
Used by permission: Joe Heller, Cagle Cartoons
I’m sure you’ve heard that income inequality in America is spreading faster than I can say “I have a dream” five times back to back, and proven character for all races and ages is becoming more and more a lost commodity. Black-on-black crime is out of control in our major cities, the new slavery is the inordinate number of black males in prison before the age of 23, and the Supreme Court gutted the Voter Rights Act of 1964 that you died for. It’s almost overwhelming. In the meantime, I’ve stumbled on a couple of seemingly stupid things that point to deeper issues. On the mundane level, have you seen what your image is being used for this year, and what it must suggest is happening with our teens about the sanctity of what you stood for?
Your birthday and image is being used to advertise everything from a Miami strip club to a teenage weekend party. I’ve enclosed a copy of a poster to one such project (the strip club poster was too racy to send to Heaven—I thought I’d be struck by lightning). I think the teen party poster speaks for itself—you are no longer the Nobel Peace Prize Winner who fought for justice and freedom, but you are the gold-chain, Rolex-wearing, hoody-popping shill for a teen twerk party.
It gets worse, Dr. King.
Some of us who have gotten out of the ghetto, made lots of money, and basically “gotten over” don’t seem to have the brains we were born with. The proven character that you spoke so much about as being our most valuable asset has gone AWOL. Have you seen some of the Black reality shows: “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Love & Hip-Hop,” “Basketball Wives,” and “The Sisterhood” (preachers’ wives acting the fool)? Yikes! Money seems to be their most valuable asset—not character.
Then there is Dennis Rodman—a major example of freedom without character. Why was he given all that game and money if he was just going to act a fool on the international stage? We finally got something you wouldn’t have dared to dream about: a two-term Black President. But along comes a tattooed, alcoholic ne’er-do-well who uses his money and clout to kiss the ass of a cruel dictator who is a mass murderer and wants to bomb the USA into smithereens. The President has enough assailing him without one of our peeps causing him so much embarrassment.
Yet, as I write this, I have a funny feeling that I need to pull the log out of my own eye before trying to pull the splinter out of the eye of the people I’ve cited. What am I doing to keep your memory alive? Who am I serving? What am I giving back to the community—to my country? I better think about that before I get a chance to chat with you because I’m sure you’re going to tell me “physician, heal thy self.” I’ll get back to you.
In the meantime: Happy Birthday, Dr. King!
Love, from someone who owes you a great debt of gratitude.
Used by permission: Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle
I am discovering that I am guilty of taking Martin Luther King’s quest and dream for granted. The celebration of his birth comes and goes every year, and I have come to think of it basically as another day off for me to catch up on my sleep and run some errands. I confess that in the past, I focused more on assimilating my children onto the world stage so that they could have comfortable lives rather than making sure they knew and understood the cost that had been paid by Martin, Medgar, Meredith, John Lewis, and so many others who sacrificed everything for my children to live where they wanted to, attend the schools they wanted to, vote for whom they wanted, and marry whom they loved. I have not done enough to affect the poison of poverty, unfair imprisonment, inequality, and racism in our country, which are rapidly rising and merging together like demonic rain-soaked rivers overflowing their banks that could consume my grandson and so many of his generation. As one of the ones who has greatly benefited from Dr. King’s dream, I pray that in my sunset years, I may find the way(s) to make more of a difference—not only with my words, but through proven character.
Used by permission: Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch
MARTIN LUTHER KING QUOTES
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
*”’Abraham, Martin and John’ is a 1968 song written by Dick Holler and first recorded by Dion. It is a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans, all icons of social change, namely Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. It was written in response to the assassinations of King and the younger Kennedy in April and June 1968.”—Wikipedia
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