Updated: Jul 25
In society, popularity is often equated with celebrity, causing us and our youth to fall into a trap of worshipping fame and materialism. Such worship can easily manifest into seeking out designer clothing, purchasing makeup created by the physically beautiful, and buying other unaffordable goods. This makes it easy to go about life with no recognition of persons of character and commitment, who have significantly changed the world for the good.
Go back in history with me to April of 1965 and 1968. On April 16, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “A Letter from A Birmingham Jail” (“the Letter”). Almost five years to the day later, on April 3rd of 1968, Dr. King gave his famous “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech while in Memphis, Tennessee, to help Black male trash collectors gain their manhood. And on April 4th, the very next day, he was murdered as he and his primary compadres in the historic Civil Rights Movement (“the Movement”) looked over a Memphis motel balcony.
As a native southerner born in a state where the Movement began [and ended], I decided to fashion a college essay around the Letter. As a Civil Rights advocate, activist, and agitator, I’ve studied the Movement and it remain a driving force in my professional and volunteer work. Dr. King and the Movement mightily vexed white southerners, including clergymen – purported men of God. Arguing that “battles should be fought in courtrooms and not the streets”, eight white clergymen drafted a newspaper published statement titled, “A Call for Unity”, which deplored their methods peaceful though they were. A white ally smuggled in the newspaper. Provoked, Dr. King, a highly educated, eloquent man of unabashed grace and dignity, responded with the Letter written on the newspaper edges there in the bowels of a filth-filled, uninhabitable locked facility.
Those who have read, studied, or seen movies about Dr. King recognize that he made it a point never to show anger, even in the worst of circumstances. At the time, this lesson was taught to Black children by their mothers and fathers, to keep them safe. The lesson didn’t work well then. Nor does it now. Take a que from Dr. King. There are times that we must use our voices to speak truth to power”. That time is now regardless of caste (aka, race), ethnicity, gender, ability status, socio-economic class, profession, and career! Will you join me and help move this nation and world forward to where they should have been four centuries ago?