Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s big day! A young relative once rejected my invitation to visit my church positing that most Sunday morning services were merely entertainment for which you pay an admission fee disguised as tithes or offering.
He said he would rather give to the poor and needy directly, and worship God on his own.
Several people over the years have used a similar analogy about the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday celebrations, noting that people of various ethnicities supposedly come together on that one day of the year designated as a commune of brotherhood but after taking in the entertainment and political rhetoric, retreat to their isolated and segregated enclaves where they will only provide lip service to the drum major’s segregated dream.
While I do see a unique link between the church and the King celebration, it is not one built on entertainment, but instead of a sacred connection to a spiritual pathway to the Promised Land spoken of in scripture and reinforced by the eloquent words written by hypocritical founders of this country in 1776.
The bond that ties the two together was forged by civil and human rights leaders like King and it included a Biblical scripture that explained that prayer without works was ineffectual.
That the hour from 10 to 12 p.m. on Sunday mornings is the most segregated 90 minutes in America speaks to both the hypocrisy of the church and of the Christian calling for universal brotherhood. But it does, ironically, fall among the freedoms provided by the U.S. Constitution, including the freedom to associate and live among like-minded people of your choice and to voice even the vilest of idiotic views.
It does not, however, provide any group the authority to deny rights or opportunities to others. Thus, King’s crusade, as both civic leader and cleric, was not so much about forcing relationships (you can’t legislate attitudes or integration), but about Christian values and–equally important–our rights to live, work and assume full citizenship without obstacle or hinderance.
Thus, the link between Sunday (or Saturday) religious services and the Monday commemoration (vs. celebration) are linked in a spiritual sense that political sponsors of the King holiday probably didn’t fully appreciate.
That being the case, I think we should declare henceforth that we will replace the King holiday with a Weekend Commemoration and Celebration of Wisdom and Welcoming (we can shorten the title as we achieve some semblance of unity).
Obviously, we must designate Martin Luther King, Jr. as the centerpiece of the weekend activities. We would just have to expand our discussion and evaluation of his life beyond one or two superficial stanzas of his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.
For those who don’t recognize Saturday as the true Sabbath, that weekend day should kick-off the weekend activities, celebrating the civic and religious value of diversity and friendship, if not miscegenation.
Let everyone dance around the anvil (no twerking please) as we symbolically unshackle the chains of stupidity and ignorance that consist of the damaged cells that feed the man-made cancer of bigotry.
Let us all sing songs like “We are the World,”and “Amazing Grace,” and let the children take center stage with speeches by King and others whose shoulders he stood upon.
It would also be appropriate if they read the Constitution and those amendments that supposedly gave people born in this country full and equal rights unencumbered by profiling, discrimination and prejudice.
On Sunday, we should hold one national worship service in which we all sit side by side with interlaced arms in public parks from sea to shiny sea.
In any event, both the weather and logistics would undermine that possibility. That being the case, let’s visit plan “B.” Let the churches, synagogues and temples focus their services on their respective teachings of the creation theory— the roots of mankind- — and God’s true vision for us. If their scripture condones racism or has drawings depicting Hitler and Jefferson Davis sitting next to God floating on clouds of cotton, I suggest they abandon that denomination and join another. And if I’m wrong, I welcome an address in hell next to Donald Trump and Con-y’all West.
Assuming that will be a quick analysis, I suggest all religious entities focus the rest of the service on King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Indeed, intrinsic in King’s letter were concerns offered by the man whose shadow King stepped out from under (no not Gandhi): Frederick Douglass, who 100 years prior questioned whether the church was complicit in the slave trade and resulting creation of American apartheid.
Let the church justify its complicity and its unwillingness to address social justice issues over the decades, or to at least exorcise the demons held by the parishioner named Jim Crow. And Monday? How do we transition from holy day to holiday? Ah, I got one for that one too: I suggest keeping schools open on the King holiday and have them focus the entire day on a King lesson plan that covers all of the fields of study.
The Physical Fitness class can examine the kinetic energy and physical attributes of the marchers who joined King and other leaders (yeah, believe it or not, King was not the only civil rights leader) around the country to “stamp” out injustice or to guarantee the right to vote, unimpeded by bigots and bigotry.
Let the phy-ed teachers stress the importance of good reflexes for those who marched into the face of adversity and bigotry, bobbing and weaving to avoid the rocks and bottles thrown at them. Strong legs were required to get to their appointed site of protest, and of course, strong neck muscles were important to absorb the blows of bigots and cops.
Of course, special training would be necessary to slow the effects of whiplash from turning the other cheek.
For biology, let the teacher explore the universal lie of White Supremacy that undermines the unsubstantiated concept that there are multiple races (with the so-called White “race” at the top of the food chain).
The truth, in case you were taught differently, is that there is but one race, and it originated in the Motherland. Anthropologists called the remains of the first human being (or would that be Hue-man) Lucy (we would have called her Lucille, or Luwanda…nah, maybe Monique). Her remains were discovered in the Motherland. And it was from the seeds Nyame (God) planted there that all other ethnicities—or tribes—originated.
The math lesson for the day could offer a problem on how much is owed the descendants of former slaves for the free labor of their ancestors.
Or maybe, how much in reparations should the government now pay for the uncashed check King talked about. Let the seniors tackle the problem of how much we are owed in reparations based on the cost of a mule and 40 acres of fertile land in 1865.
Add in the compound interest and a few dollars for emotional distress. The civics class can focus on how and why the government denied rights to people despite the guarantees of the 13th and 14th amendments, a question King repeatedly asked.
And what lessons have we learned about the power of the people to effect change amid political adversity, unjust laws and corrupt law enforcement. Were marches and prayer vigils effective? What about the boycotts?
Obviously, the history lesson must analyze and educate on the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but it should also review the 400 years leading up to those tumultuous days.
Let’s take a serious look at the concept of manifest destiny that was used to exterminate the native population, the system of slavery and how the so-called “founding fathers” justified apartheid while calling themselves liberators.
Let’s study the impact of Jim Crow and how the government destroyed the Black nuclear family and infested our community with drugs to maintain a status quo that benefits the few at the expense of the many.
Allow the teachers to provide a true history lesson on African contributions to the world ranging from our introduction to science, math and medicine. Let the students marvel at the resiliency and strength of a people who survived the worst form of slavery known to mankind, and still contributed like no other ethnicity to the evolution of this country and its resources.
Finally, spend some time reading between the lines to discover why many of us are still in chains today, are victims of self-hatred and low self-esteem. Was there a strategist called Willie Lynch? And if not, who orchestrated this historic tragedy?
It will probably take a few generations for my Weekend Wisdom project to effectuate King’s penultimate goal, but that’s a far shorter time span than relying on a Monday celebration, once a year.
And who knows, with this accelerated timetable, maybe the grandson of my relative will find himself in church sitting on a bench next to an Asian, Mexican and good ole boy from Georgia.