Apr 4, 2018

The King Legacy by Hermene D. Hartman

The King Legacy

by Hermene D. Hartman

copied from N'DIGO

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The King Legacy

by Hermene D. Hartman
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of America’s most profound figures. As we celebrate his birthday holiday in January and his death in April, we still are trying to realize his full impact.
This year 2018 forces us to look at King’s deeds, as he was assassinated some 50 years ago at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
What did Dr. King do? He changed America; he challenged America to be the country that it said it was. He defined the change during a relatively brief, 13-year career in social justice, protesting, boycotting and marching. But most of all he preached, and changed came.
King’s movement was a youth movement. He took America’s youth, the majority from Black colleges, and made them a force to be reckoned with. He filled the jails with college students. In the summer, the northern white kids went south to help with voter registration.
The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN
With Friends
Dr. King with Hosea Williams, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and Rev. Ralph Abernathy
Dr. King's room at The Lorraine Motel, where he spent his last night.
The young army went to jail for the right to vote. They walked across Selma’s bridge facing guns and horses as they stared racist policemen in the face. King made the federal government protect the marchers after three attempts. He literally stood on the side of truth and looked power dead in the face and dared America to be all that it could be. About 500 people crossed that bridge with him.
The longer King is dead, the greater his presence, the greater his power becomes. His staff was small but mighty, and brilliant and dedicated. Little-known behind the scenes tales tell of how King paid his staff. There were no foundation grants, no sponsorship dollars for the marches.
But King passed the hat in goodwill organizations, with entertainers, and most all in the church community, to raise funds. That was a hard job – appealing to good men for good deeds for good money for the good cause of civil rights.
His assassination on April 4, 1968, was devastating. America’s urban Black communities went up in flames and still beg for recovery. His executive staffers, scattered, like Andrew Young, John Lewis and Jesse Jackson, entered the political arenas and changed the game.
Dr. King lived under constant threat, from house burnings to airplane bombings to church bombings to jailing, as he challenged the American system of racism with his non-violence. He realized that he would probably be killed as he challenged America’s status quo. But he showed no fear as he moved about preaching the truth.
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Freedom Fighter

King was a freedom fighter. He fought racism, poverty and war. He was adamant and steadfast even when his civil rights cohorts turned on him to say he should not address international matters like the Vietnam War.
In one of his most controversial speeches, at Riverside Church in New York, delivered exactly one year before the day of his death on April 4, 1967, King came out against the Vietnam War and the policies that created it.
The speech was written by activist and historian Vincent Harding and tied the anti-war movement with the civil rights movement.
The NAACP, civil rights leader Ralph Bunche and mainstream media like the New York Times and the Washington Post barked that King had gone too far and should stick to just trying to improve a lot of Black people.
But King said the Vietnam War was wrong and stood his ground, adding his loud voice to the Peace Movement. King refused to be boxed in by other folk’s limitations. In his last year, some Black people began to challenge King – they questioned out loud his methodology of non-violence.
They questioned his relevancy. But King stood his ground and said non-violence worked and he would continue to use it as a tool. His poll ratings were at a low point with the American public, whites and blacks included.
Dr. King at Riverside Church in New York
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Change Agent

The Southern Leadership Conference
As we reflect on King’s life and legacy, it is certain that he was one of the most powerful and prolific men of his era. He was as powerful as any President of the United States, without a single elected vote. He was a real community organizer, and his community was America.
His civil rights career started at the young age of 26 in Montgomery Alabama, with his first church. He gave voice to Rosa Parks’ protest of refusing to sit on the back of the bus. His acclaim rose as he learned to use his voice and the protests to attract the attention of mainstream national and eventually international media.
The depth of King’s belief in social justice influenced the media to demonstrate to the world the social ills and the unjust treatment of Black southerners. He rose to the occasion. He made ‘the Negro” rise. He changed the South.
King’s organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was formally organized in January 1957. He learned the principles of non-violence from Mohandas Gandhi as a method to confront social injustice and to lead what he called “America’s third revolution – the Negro Revolution.”
King raised Black consciousness. His classic “letter from a Birmingham jail” addressed white clergymen and expressed his innermost feelings about the social dynamics of Black America.
The August 28, 1963 March on Washington he led was epic, with 250,000 people from all over the country assembling in the nation’s capital to support civil rights legislation
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March On Washington 1963
Dr. King Addressing Crowd @ The March on Washington 1963
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Dr. King hit with rocks at Marquette Park, Chicago, IL
White Protesters in Chicago

The Chicago Movement

King changed politics when he came to live in Chicago on the West Side on Hamlin Street. He challenged Mayor Richard Daley’s democratic machine even as the powers-that-be told him his services were not needed here because there was no racism here.
But King argued that point and unfortunately had the point demonstrated to the world when he was hit with rocks thrown from a crowd of approximately 700 white folks during a violent protest march through Marquette Park on Chicago’s South Side on August 5, 1966.
The Chicago Tribune’s account of the event read:
“King and hundreds of demonstrators had scarcely set out on a march to promote open housing when he was struck by a rock. The blow knocked King to one knee and he thrust out an arm to break the fall. He remained in this kneeling position, head bent, for a few seconds until his head cleared.
“Aides and bodyguards closed in around King, holding placards aloft to shield him from the missiles that followed. King and the demonstrators had hoped to reach a real estate office on nearby 63rd Street, intending to demand that properties be rented and sold on a nondiscriminatory basis in the all-white Chicago Lawn neighborhood.
“Only a few of them made it before a riot broke out. At least 30 people were injured, some by a hail of bricks and bottles accompanied by racial epithets. Some counter-demonstrators were clubbed by baton-wielding police officers. More than 40 people were arrested when a crowd of whites blocked adjoining streets and cursed the police, several of whom were hurt.”
Afterwards, Dr. King said of the incident: “I've been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I've seen here in Chicago.”
King’s time in Chicago led to the formation of an independent politics here that eventually produced Harold Washington as Chicago’s first Black mayor, Jesse Jackson as a serious Black presidential candidate, and Barack Obama as America’s first Black president.
Dr. King was jailed 30 times. He marched and he marched and he marched. His preaching style was theology and poetry with a Baptist delivery. He led a student movement to the height of power in the land. Everyone counted in what he called “the beloved community.” He exemplified the definition of leadership. But the King era lasted a mere 13 years, with his death at the young age of 39.
As we examine his legacy and impactful, yet brief life, you can’t help but wonder what King would be doing in today’s social and political milieu. No doubt he would be marching with the kids on gun violence. He would make the kids an army. Indeed, they are borrowing a page from his playbook right now.
And I am sure that he would use his voice against Trump, as only a minister could. And most of all, there would definitely be the King Tweet.
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