Friday, April 04, 2008

Reflections About A King

When I flipped the calendar page from March to April, I stared at the 4 that appeared in the first Friday of the month and realized we were approaching another sad anniversary of his assassination.

It's been 40 years since whoever fired that bullet, whether it was James Earl Ray or some person whose name will remain unknown to us cut short Dr. King's brilliant life at age 39. I was a first grader at the time one month away from celebrating my sixth birthday when he was killed in Memphis.

Usually in the run up to this anniversary date, like I do on his January 15 birthday and the federal holiday, I not only take time to reflect on the remarkable life of who Tavis Smiley calls 'the greatest American we ever produced', I take stock in my own personal life and ask myself some hard questions about what I'm doing to not only help my people make 'The Dream' a reality, but what I'm doing in service to others as well.

This 40th anniversary of his assassination is also arriving at another pivotal moment in our history. It's ironic that just like 40 years ago, we are embroiled in another controversial war, environmental issues are on the minds of votes, we have an unpopular president occupying the White House, race relations have become testy, the economy is stagnant, and Americans are pessimistic about the future.

But at the same time, Robert Kennedy's run for the presidency 40 years ago was generating the same kind of optimism and hope among a cross section of Americans as Sen. Barack Obama's historic presidential run is today.

But make no mistake about it, we are in another dust up over race because we have failed to aggressively pursue the remedies and policies that would make 'The Dream' a reality. It's interesting to note that no one has brought up the Kerner Commission report, which was released 40 years ago on February 29, 1968 and warned 'our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, One White—Separate and Unequal' in the context of these discussion.

Over the last few days, I've been rereading my copy of A Testament of Hope, which is a James Washington edited compilation of writings, interviews and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every time I read it I gain new insights about this remarkable man. The other striking thing is how applicable his words are to our time period, especially when he talks about his opposition to the Vietnam War.

Dr. King was a rare combination of intelligence, superior oratorical skill, political savviness, scientific curiosity, top notch writing skills, spirituality, and telegenic looks in one impressive package.

There are not many movement leaders in our time who have half of those qualities, much less the stature that Dr. King commanded during his lifetime. I remember a commentary I wrote in response to a post on a transgender list that said we needed a transgender Martin Luther King. It also created a leadership yardstick that few people can live up to but if they tried, we'd be much better off.

America and the world suffered a great loss when he was taken away from us and we are a poorer nation for it.

Crossposted to The Bilerico Project.

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