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Monday, January 21, 2019

His legacy still speaks: Martin Luther King Jr would have been 90. Jan 21 2019 edition

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THIS is a special edition with just one feature topic. 

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 by Lawrence Wines

Today we honor a singularly modern hero, and the day marks what would have been the celebration of his 90th birthday. Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. was a man once targeted and threatened by the FBI as "a dangerous subversive." Yet today he is universally honored. His life was taken by the very injustices he eloquently spoke and nonviolently fought to defeat -- marginalization, segregation, and violence as status quo. Yet his legacy stands as a powerful force to defy and defeat those same terrible and persistent aberrations that run counter to civilization.


Today, all around the country, memorials and service projects are taking place as actualizations of activism -- for the rabble rouser who had a dream for a better world. We offer several examples of a living, if endangered, legacy, along with one way you can participate, wherever you are, in taking action for our time. (It's in one of the links.)

His legacy lives on through every person who continues to strive for universal social justice, inclusion of all the people in a true democracy, and for the absolute necessity of peace in the world. Someday that can include all of us, and that day cannot come too soon.

Let’s be honest. Dr. King is presented to our elementary school students in a scrubbed and sanitized package that omits much of what he said. His advocacy of direct action, his strident opposition to militarism and a litany of injustices and structural economic inequities are inconvenient truths that are edited-out of the approved narrative of his advocacy for racial equality.

Of course he was the man most associated in America with the practice of non-violence in a time of reflexively-enacted reaction and violence motivated by fear and retaliation, but he was not a man who kept quiet about the issues that mattered.

Even as Dr. King called-out the forces that motivate through fear of losing unearned privilege, and subjected them to the sunlight, he chose to act fearlessly, motivated by serving the needs of others. He knew it would take only one person powered by hate and rage, and his own life could be violently ended. Yet he persevered. 

When he was shot by a bullet that came so close to killing him that the surgeon told him he would have died if he had moved a slight amount in the wrong direction, or merely sneezed? He delivered a speech after the terrifying event that focused not on what motivated his shooter, but on his gratitude and his ability to renew his commitment because he "did not sneeze."

His words were never movie-script bravado. They were the content of his character. And they resonate and motivate.

Jeff Clements, president of the organization "American Progress," recalls and applies Dr. King's sentiments, when he recalls "a man who defined his life by a belief in the ability of dedicated individuals to drive human progress through hard work and sacrifice."

Clements quotes Dr. King: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable,” Dr. King wrote. “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Citing the 1968 assassination of Dr. King, many individuals and organizations hasten to assert that his words and spirit and legacy are as alive and relevant today as ever.

"Fifty years later, our nation continues the work to realize the Constitutional promise of equality under the law," says Clements, continuing, "As we work toward the systemic changes our nation needs in this time of turmoil, no one could offer a better role model for action and service in the face of adversity than Dr. King."

"Expanding democratic rights for all citizens is in our country’s DNA. People in every generation have stepped up to fulfill this pledge of our nation. Today, in honor of the many who have fought for equality before us, we must reconnect with our nation’s history and work toward equal political representation for all Americans, not just the wealthiest," says Clements.

His organization, "American Promise," is all about getting Americans to act together to win passage of the 28th Amendment in the wake of Supreme Court decisions that identify money as "free speech," and thus let rich interests make unlimited and even secret political contributions. 

A 28th Amendment to the US Constitution is needed to undo that, so people, not money, will govern in America. The struggle of ordinary citizens against the hegemony of an elite is never over.

The influences of Dr. King are felt every day across culture and politics, among the downtrodden, all who are dedicated to peace, and an incalculable number of advocates for change.

In 2014, a documentary by "Brave New Films" featured Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, in their film, Our Turn to Dream. 

The film reminds us of the exacerbations of racial and social control through mass incarceration -- something Dr. King spoke against -- and it shows us the growing movement to end commercialized, economically exploitive, mass incarceration today. Today, the United States is the nation with more people behind bars than any other nation on Earth.

Together with the positive things he left us, there is the legacy of Dr. King’s assassination. In it we see and feel the inescapable tragedy of dehumanizing other people, and how that continues to infect society and affect all of us 50 years later. 

Dr. King still calls each of us to be a "Drum Major for Justice." He still calls to renounce war as amplified bullying that enriches the merchants of death and oppresses and impoverishes all who find themselves in the path of exploitive Empire or in the way of overinflated national ego. 

Dr. King still calls us to be a "Drum Major for Justice." He still calls to renounce war as amplified bullying that enriches the merchants of death and oppresses and impoverishes all who find themselves in the path of exploitive Empire or in the way of overinflated national ego.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s value of radical inclusivity could be the antidote to fear-driven stupidity that expends our blood and treasure and empowers the very ideology that has produced centuries of human conflict. Note that phrase of his, "radical inclusivity."

He lives among us, a man for OUR time.

And we can choose to empower his legacy over the constant calls for walls and barriers and military deployments and occupations of other people's countries. After all, the fundamental nature of things is still the same.

We can choose inclusion and embrace participation and the worth of every individual as someone who can contribute, or we can choose the fear-based paradigms of suspicion, exclusion, occupation, subjugation, exploitation, and expensive barriers that drain our energies and resources.

Yep, good and bad, replete with power and the need to speak truth to it, and with all the ever-present realized and unrealized manifestations of potential, the fundamental nature of things is still the same. 

Take this example. In 1966, Dr. King sent a telegram to Cesar Chavez, the head of the United Farm Workers union. UFW members were mostly undocumented immigrant workers, though mainstream America was embracing the union's call for lettuce boycotts, then raisins, and other crops, to pressure agricultural interests to treat workers fairly and with fundamental decency. Dr. King wrote Chavez in his telegram, “As brothers in the fight for equality... Our struggles are really one: a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity.”

You may have noted the art for our story. It is from two organizations, "People's Action," and "American Promise."

James Mumm, a spokesman for "People's Action," says of today's political train wreck, "We are in an emotional and spiritual struggle for freedom, dignity and humanity. That’s why the stakes are so high for the Right, and for us. This is about the meaning of freedom... As we ramp up the pressure on Congress to reopen our government without funding for Trump’s ego-sized wall, we need to ask how we can demonstrate the value of radical inclusivity today." 

"Radical inclusivity." A phrase that could find ready application now. It's just one more of the countless citations of Dr. King's legacy.

Meanwhile, Aaron Scherb of the nonpartisan "Common Cause" reminds us that today isn't only the day we honor Dr. King. "Today is also the nine-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling -- one of our democracy's lowest points that put our elections up for sale to corporations and special interests."

Scherb continues, "...we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose living example represented democracy at its finest -- organizing people together to fight for equity and justice... One anniversary represents the freedom to fully participate in our society -- and calls for recommitting ourselves to the still-ongoing fight to dismantle racism. The other represents the exact opposite -- but has also sparked a powerful movement for a democracy where everyone has the right to participate, every vote is counted, and everyone’s voice is heard."

If that sounds like a call to action on this day when there are so many ways to take action, it is. Today, we can carry Dr. King's work forward by demanding that our democracy finally lives up to its promise.

We've heard from some contemporary voices about legacy and need and potential. Now it's time to switch the focus to empowerment of our voices.

The new majority in the US House of Representatives has taken-up the "For the People Act" as its first order of business -- a groundbreaking package of democracy reforms that would give each of us the voice we deserve, and to which the US Constitution entitles us, as "We, the people." Because that's what it says -- "We, the people." Not "We, the corporate oligarchs."

So, on this Martin Luther King Day, this day of taking action, you have a vast number of ways to make a difference in the lives of others and to shape the future for all of us. And that is the best way to pay homage to the memory of the man we honor today.

We've shared the words of others who share the importance of Dr. King's legacy in their lives and work. Now it's time to share some of the eloquent words of the man himself.

We hope you will keep this handy. Dive in and out until you get through al the speech excerpts. We present only a snippet of Dr. King said in a few of his public addresses, and we chose these because
On September 1, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr., was only 38 years old. Yet he had won the Nobel Peace Prize and was already president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference before he took the podium that day at the American Psychological Association's Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. Here is an excerpt from the speech he delivered:
Creative maladjustment.
... it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.

Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream";

or as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who in the midst of his vacillations finally came to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free;

or as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, could scratch across the pages of history, words lifted to cosmic proportions,

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.
The following words are from his speech delivered at Grosse Pointe High School in Michigan, March 14, 1968 -- three weeks before he was assassinated.

... I want to use as a title for my lecture tonight, "The Other America." And I use this title because there are literally two Americas. Every city in our country has this kind of dualism, this schizophrenia, split at so many parts, and so every city ends up being two cities rather than one.
There are two Americas.

One America is beautiful for situation. In this America, millions of people have the milk of prosperity and the honey of equality flowing before them. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, culture and education for their minds, freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.

But there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America, thousands and thousands of people, men in particular walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist. In this other America, millions of people are forced to live in vermin-filled, distressing housing conditions where they do not have the privilege of having wall-to-wall carpeting, but all too often, they end up with wall-to-wall rats and roaches. Almost forty percent of the Negro families of America live in sub-standard housing conditions. In this other America, thousands of young people are deprived of an opportunity to get an adequate education.
Every year thousands finish high school reading at a seventh, eighth and sometimes ninth grade level. Not because they're dumb, not because they don't have the native intelligence, but because the schools are so inadequate, so over-crowded, so devoid of quality, so segregated if you will, that the best in these minds can never come out.

Probably the most critical problem in the other America is the economic problem.

There are so many other people in the other America who can never make ends meet because their incomes are far too low if they have incomes, and their jobs are so devoid of quality. And so in this other America, unemployment is a reality and under-employment is a reality.
... John Donne was right. No man is an island and the tide that fills every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. And he goes on toward the end to say, "any man's death diminishes me because I'm involved in mankind. Therefore, it's not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

Somehow we must come to see that in this pluralistic, interrelated society we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.

And by working with determination and realizing that power must be shared, I think we can solve this problem, and may I say in conclusion that our goal is freedom and I believe that we're going to get there.

It's going to be more difficult from here on in but I believe we're going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom and Our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America.

Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence we were here. Before the beautiful words of the Star Spangled Banner were written we were here. And for more than two centuries our forbearers labored here without wages. They made cotton King, they built the homes of their masters in the midst of the most humiliating and oppressive conditions and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to grow and develop and if the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn't stop us, the opposition that we now face including the white backlash will surely fail.
... however difficult it is during this period, however difficult it is to continue to live with the agony and the continued existence of racism, however difficult it is to live amidst the constant hurt, the constant insult and the constant disrespect, I can still sing we shall overcome.
We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.
We shall overcome because Carlisle is right. "No lie can live forever." We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right. 

"Truth crushed to earth will rise again."

We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right.

"Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne."

Yet that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the Bible is right.

"You shall reap what you sow."

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all of God's children all over this nation - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual,

"Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty, We are Free At Last."
Just after 6 pm on April 4, 1968, while chiding his colleagues about being late for dinner, Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot.

He was standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an establishment listed in the "Green Book for Negro Travelers," and was exclusively for black customers through the just-ended years of segregated hotels and restaurants. 

Dr. King was in Memphis to rally support for the striking sanitation workers -- the mostly-black garbage men who were not allowed to ride in the cabs of the garbage trucks with the white drivers, but had ride in the back with the garbage. Two of those garbage men, taking refuge from a hard rain, had recently been crushed and killed by a garbage truck's trash compactor.

Today, no sanitation worker rides with the garbage.

Today, the original Lorraine Motel façade houses the National Civil Rights Museum.

And today, everyone knows the iconic U2 song, "One Man in the Name of Love," and its lyric description, "April fourth, shots ring out in the Memphis sky / Free at last..."


MUCH MORE SOON, including
very full

Of course we'll add labeled
receive them.

Otherwise, that's a wrap for this edition!

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We'll be back again soon with music news and more "News of the Non-Trumpcentric Universe." (c)


Boilerplate? Where's the main pressure gauge? And the firebox?
What "boilerplate"? Who came up with that goofy term for the basic essential informational stuff...

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