holiday diversion / his birthday was yesterday

but his Day is today
Last year on the holiday I linked to the I Have A Dream speech from the Washington Mall, with text and video; I also linked to that text on the sad 40th anniversary of his assassination, on April 4, 2008.

Today I re-read the extraordinary letter from a Birmingham jail of April 16, 1963. I highly commend it, if you will but take 10 quiet minutes. On the one hand, it is amazing that the circumstances that were such an emergency for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the world not 50 years ago have changed so much; on the other hand, it is shameful that so many people seem to forget (ignore?) the true conditions in this Greatest Nation On Earth not so very long ago, the perilous (often fatal) work that was done to move from then to now, and how the legacy of those conditions and that struggle persist.

Go to The Wiki for the context, if you need a quick reminder. Read the text quietly, if you will. Here are some excerpts, none of which does justice to the whole:

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham.


You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.

One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.

R.I.P., for another righteous brother
It is perhaps fitting that Charles L. Jones, adviser and lecturer at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York System, finally succumbed yesterday, Dr, King’s actual birthday, to complications from a series of strokes. Charles worked tirelessly to help his young students understand Dr. King’s struggles 50 years ago in the context of what came before and what has happened since. He remains an inspiration to me (“did you make a difference today?”).

I am honored to have considered Charles a friend. I will be forever in his debt for letting me tag along with his students and fellow faculty members on the buses that left the campus about 11 PM on January 19, 2009, returning from a chilly day in Washington about 24 hours later. (See my January 20, 2009, best cold day EVER, if that reference is too obscure. As it happened, we never made it to 12th and Pennsylvania but watched from the middle of The Mall; I still think that was “the largest collection of happy people ever assembled in this country”.)

“Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood”, Manhattan Loft Guy

© Sandy Mattingly 2012


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