by Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations are common throughout the United States and in many foreign countries. In fact, there are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. streets in more places than the African American communities of these United States.
In Europe, Japan, Canada and parts of Africa and India, the name Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. conjures the same “I Have a Dream” speech and his clarion voice for justice and rights for people regardless of their color.
Each year, as the celebrations are held, particularly in Milwaukee, a cadre of local, national and international celebrities comprise the dais, visit the podium and declare the penetrating influence of Dr. King.
And, each year, we are again reminded of the brilliance, courage, visionary preoccupation of Dr. King, and his wife Coretta, who not only endured widowhood, but singularly waged the balance of her life to ensure that Dr. King’s dream will never die.
His dream lives on in the hearts of those who journeyed with him, side by side, or view by view, on television, or pulpit by pulpit, as collections were made to support the movement and now dollar by dollar as the National Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, in Washington, D.C., still pleads for $11 million needed to complete the 30 foot stone memorial that graces the Reflection Pool plaza from which the “I Have a Dream” speech was first heard. The monument dream must be realized, each person can still donate. If you have not given, do. If you have, give again. We can. We owe him that honor.
The original speech was written by his speechwriter, and approved with customary deletions and insertions that made the “Dream” speech “Martin’s.” It is said that the true brilliance of Dr. King and his vision is best represented in the improvisations, the theological/scriptural additions that occurred as Dr. King actually began to speak.
These diversions from the text made the speech superb. They were the spirit of mission; and the flow and the verbal synthesis that refined and further defined the day’s purpose, making this speech extraordinary. It was the gift of the Holy Spirit that made chills run up and down the listener’s spines, people still recall. Clearly, Dr. King was a modern day Moses!
While most agree that he was a man called to do what history shall always record. And while many believe that his dream still moves us to reflect, re-examine and even make the paradigm shifts demanded to support the world, according to Martin, day to day life simply does not support non-violence, nor treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated.
We do not religiously give to the poor or create the jobs that foster and support dignity. The real world still says it’s cheaper to send the work to India or China or Mexico because we cannot afford the unions.
Today’s world says “you’ve had your opportunities so you can not blame anyone except yourself. The real world says: If you want your unemployment extended so that your children can eat and you are not made homeless, you must make the tax reform support the top 2% who otherwise would have more taxes to pay.
Regrettably, the world that Dr. King would see, today, is very much riddled by greed of the wealthy and fears of the majority.
At the same time, generations of impoverished have created a definable under-class that no longer supports the bootstrap theory that permeated Martin’s time. Neither do they believe in non-violence and turn the other check.
They are not their brother’s keeper; and the middle-class is blinded by false illusions of wealth. And the wealthy hide under the cloak of separatism and conservatism and tea party and no more debt. But who voted in the most recent budgetary increase? The same politicians who said no to everything and held out until tax containment, benefitting mostly the wealthy, was approved for the next two years.
I believe Dr. King would be very ambivalent today. He would look upon a Black President with great pride and laud the number of multi-ethnic Congressmen who now vote on the laws of this great nation.
He would point, wisely, at the many who sacrificed with him and thank God that many of his immediate followers and their children and their children’s children have graduated colleges and have strong families and lifestyles he had hoped his own children would have.
He no doubt would look upon his children with great pride along with guilt for they have been bruised, yet resiliently saved. He would no doubt lament the emotional sacrifices made as a result of his early death.
Dr. King would see the masses who have not reached economic stability or parity, those who linger on street corners, or shoot dice on the schoolhouse steps while designing ways to get dope or rob their neighbor or take the car of the mother pumping gas.
He would decry the guns, and the community wars and verbal bullies and the nation’s two wars with its imbalance of troops who continuously volunteer to support their families and then fail to find work when they return.
He would weep at the preachers who were the backbone of the non-violence movement now find themselves accused of sexual abuse…catholic and protestant…wearers of the cloth, the shepherds of his flock.
But on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in this year of 2011, we again pause. Some of us are “hands on” in living what Dr. King espouses; while others work to fulfill his mission, with passion and resolve. Others take advantage of the day off…with no thoughts about whose birthday they even celebrate. Yet, others feel that this day is without merit.
Of course, in our democracy, these viewpoints are permitted and constitutional, but until we let freedom ring in every hamlet; and until we permit every man to be judged by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, we will continue to hear, reflect, resolve and move on…to our warped lifestyles, the very next day.
The dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a dream for blacks nor just people of color, it is a dream for humanity, for as we well know…particularly now…an injustice to one is an injustice to all.
Happy Birthday, Dr. King. We continue to support, live and celebrate your dream! For we KNOW that you are worthy!