My favorite speech from the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King has been called “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” and it ends something like this:
And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
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 thoughts swirling through my head with the recent release of Notorious and the pending inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama all have a focal point of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Particularly, I’m always concerned with a few parts of his legend that have turned into fable, and have almost made it impossible for the younger generations to feel empowered by the Civil Rights Movement. (Some of the inspiration for this post came at the behest of CNN’s Soledad Brown’s interview with Fred Gray, Rosa Parks’ lawyer during the pivotal bus sit-in, who is still quite sharp.)
These are a handful of things everyone can take to the younger generation in case even we forget what’s truly possible:
1) Rosa Parks was neither lazy nor stubborn. She was a protester who knew what she was doing when she sat on that bus, and she knew who had her back.
2) The movement may have had male figureheads, but the movement wouldn’t have even been possible without the women in the movement, and everyone who’s anyone knows it.
3) From some reports, MLK Jr. was actually reluctant to even get into the movement, but eventually felt it was the best thing to do.
4) Most of the movers and shakers of the movement were really young. Some of the Black Panthers were late teens or college students. The same can be said for the Brown Berets, Young Lords, Yellow Fist, etc. MLK Jr. was still a preacher at 25, but he was assassinated at 39. Malcolm X was also assassinated at 39. Rosa Parks was 35 during the infamous bus incident.
5) Despite videos and tales to the contrary, the people who marched, protested, and made noise were relatively few. Thus, it only takes a few to shake millions.
6) Unlike many rappers who have professed their suicidal thoughts to the masses, MLK Jr. didn’t say the aforementioned “Mountaintop” speech because he was somehow depressed or disillusioned with the world around him. He, like other Civil Rights leaders, actually feared for their lives because they were HELPING ADVANCE EQUALITY FOR ALL!
Now some of these facts might come off as a little morbid, but the residuals of these ideas have almost made many of our young brethren ostentatious when unnecessary but timid when it comes to civil action. Rather than actually feeling some inspiration about these awesome figures in this country’s history, many of them cower and shun those times in favor of more individualistic goals and a lavish lifestyle.
Thus, tomorrow’s inauguration is truly symbolic not simply because Barack Obama’s a Black man in the White House or because it comes at the heels of MLK Jr. Day, but also because this president’s whole campaign was about igniting the younger generation, and relying on their expertise. Maybe percentagewise, it may not have been much of a difference, but the people who took to the blogs and the streets is impressive, and maybe then, too, we’ll have a new generation who finds value in giving life and limb for a cause that benefits the greater.
Jose, who doesn’t believe in this post-racial business, you need more people …
p.s. – Dick Cheney hurting his back moving out of the office? Wow. Not that coincidental.