Today, we remember the late great Martin Luther King, Jr.
The late King is one of my personal heroes and he continues to be in inspiration to all Americans in pursuit of truth and justice. Everyone should own A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. - It's a book that I'll often pick up for a quick read and then find myself an hour later, buried in a passionate sermon when I should be sleeping. CNN has posted some of his writings here in an interactive gallery. I like how he had a worn Gandhi quote that he carried with him at all times. I also recommend the moving "Interruptions" sermon that he was working on at the time of his death, that references both the bible and Coleridge.
Take a second to watch the last minute of his last speech, prophetic in its tone as he was killed the next day:
Have you ever seen anyone else speak like that? It gives you chills and fills me with such awe, it almost feels like you are listening to a higher power - at the end, you can see, it looks like he just collapses into a chair, spent from delivery.
"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!!"
Sadly, many only remember King for his wonderful "I have a dream" speech. He is so much more than that. I'd agree with Michael Eric Dyson and propose a moratorium on the speech for ten years - take the time and read the wide breadth and depth of his other writings, such as "A Time to Break Silence." Or his other oft studied work is "A Letter from Birmingham Jail." And for good reason - here is one of my favorite passages:
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
I fight back tears everytime I read that part about his kids, picturing him in his cell, full of such indignation and passion while the world outside the jail is full of tension and confusion.
Celebrate the Legend. Celebrate Humanity. Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.