Lots of talk, yes, but does anyone care, is anyone listening…?
With all due respect to the civil rights icon, anyone and everyone born in the decades of the 1940s to ‘70s, all now 50- to 60- and early 70-something year-olds, should be quite familiar with him, and to varying degrees well-schooled in his historic socio-political exploits…
[Before continuing, let me hasten to add that several years ago I was in the presence of a group of Black people, including a Black gentleman who at the time was in his late 70s, and was being interviewed about growing up in Montreal. The name MLK was brought up and that man was stumped; the name didn’t ring a bell. And someone who knew him well said he wasn’t kidding, wasn’t suffering from Alzheimer’s or other mentally debilitating condition. Some who knew him were perplexed by his response. That man, it turns out, wasn’t preoccupied with the Black condition… activism, liberation struggles and what not. His interests were mundane, not the least of which were girls… He was serious.]
Which is why every year at this time of year, Black History Month season, the name Martin Luther King, Jr. is front and center, rolls off lips. Year in, year out the name invariably resonates: is on the lips, in every conversation, discussion, speech… of those people who are interested and engaged in the Black condition, not just locally, but globally. It’s difficult to speak of the Black, African peoples’ ongoing condition through a local spectrum.
The name Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month, then, have become synonymous, inextricably linked, at least in North America.
So this year, like every year before, the name of the internationally-known civil/human rights icon will be mentioned in multiple (personal/individual) conversations and his voluminous treasure of discourses will resonate… in different venues, with multiple objectives: affirm, educate, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, inspire… The latter being the story of his lasting legacy, which continues to impact the lives of [all] human beings of goodwill people – race and ethnic persuasion notwithstanding – who strive to emulate Rev. King’s life’s work to borrow the usual cliché: “make the world a better place.”
One of his books, Why We Can’t Wait, published in 1964, speaks to (some of) the man’s life’s work.
[I was gifted a copy of this book many years ago, which I subsequently “loaned” to someone who solemnly promised to return it. I’m still waiting… The culprit moved to another city. It’s while listening to a NPR radio discussion on MLK Day (in the U.S.) that Why We Can’t Wait was mentioned; it jarred my memory. So with the book at the fore of my psyche I will look for and invest in another copy.]
Online it is referred to as an “excellent collection of essays on the race issues still facing our country 50 years ago…). I also found multiple reviews by people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.
One states: “I read this book in high school at a time when I was just beginning to truly understand the Civil Rights movement. This book changed my life. I don’t care if that sounds cliché or whatever, but there is no way a person can read a book like Why We Can’t Wait, and experience Dr. Martin Luther King’s more than deeply profound rhetoric of freedom and equality and then turn around and aim for mediocrity. I have a lot more to say, but I shall save my thoughts and pour them into action.”
Another comment reads: “This book is about non-violent revolution…”
Someone who purports to have been a close associate of Rev. King writes, “[…] From the outset of his campaign tensions were present not only within the black communities, but also with whites who supported their cause. When he began to plan his strategy for nonviolent demonstrations he found that “there was tremendous resistance to [their] program from some of the Negro ministers, businessmen, and professionals…”
It’s an excellent book to add to your collection – if you could find it. It speaks to many of the issues that
continue to impact our lives daily.
So as we make our way through another quick month of Black “consciousness raising” it’s another opportunity for personal and collective reflection by gauging how far we, the community, have progressed since last year’s celebration.
As a people and community that have been moved by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s life of advocacy, which continue to speak to socially debilitating conditions that continue to hamper us as we agitate for tangible change, conversations with people who truly put themselves on the so-called frontlines are common and plentiful, especially at this time of year.
But many bemoan the fact and reality that despite all the annual talk and conversations our community remains in the doldrums, because many contend that in spite of the mental resources and capacities of the community, many have opted to sideline the community and focus on self, selves… There’s that belief, self-fulfilling prophecy that for all sorts of reasons – places of birth, language, etc., we just can’t get along. Again that word cohesion, or lack of same comes to mind.
Which is why all of his social, anti-racist and other forms of activism must be used to propel us in a positive direction. Most notably, and importantly a cohesive and vibrant community.
It’s almost… no, a cliché, engaging in conversation and hear that chorus: the community has nothing, is dysfunctional, stagnant. And it’s hard to disagree. Just venture into certain parts of the city where economic vibrancy is evident, but one thing is missing, Black ownership.
I’ve been hearing that chorus, echo for years, and there’s no visible or audible signs of change.
Nevertheless, I for one will never engage in any of that archaic, redundant, stereotypical crab-in-the-barrel talk. If anyone buys into it, it surely will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is 2020. As the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. continue to resonate the next three weeks let’s act and have something extraordinary and community-shattering to celebrate in 2021.