I remember the day and I remember it well! I came home from school that Thursday afternoon to discover gospel music playing on the radio and my mother crying. I knew something was amiss because the local radio station that my mother listened to, would normally only play gospel music until noon. After the noon hour, the station would change to a rhythm and blues musical format. As for my mother crying, I had only seen her cry once before that time. It was one year earlier; February 14, 1967, the day the only grandfather I knew (her father) died. I asked my mother what was wrong, to which she replied: “King is dead!” At the time, I was a naïve seven-year-old with no clue as to what she was talking about and so I asked: “King who?” At that point, my mother sat me down and explained to me who Dr. King was and what was going on in America.
Fast-forward to fifty years later. My mother has been gone for 19 years and that naïve little seven-year-old is now a fifty-seven-year-old preacher and pastor. America, although much progress has been made, is still a nation wherein people are judged by the color of their skin more-so than the content of their character! It seems as if, for the most part, the only time some people talk about Dr. King, his dream and what happened is during Black History celebrations in February and on April 4; the anniversary of his assassination.
Tremendous progress has been made! We’ve even had a two-term Black President, but America is still a nation, wounded, handicapped, and scarred by racial prejudice and racial hatred. It’s 2018, and there are still people in this country today who still think “white is right” and “black and brown shouldn’t be around!” The nation has opted to elect a president who shows no apparent respect for the truth, the poor or the disenfranchised. Because of the climate this administration has allowed (encouraged?) closet racists have come out of their closets, boldly speaking with their lips dripping with the saliva of hatred and contempt for people who are not like them! Is this the America of Dr. King’s dream? In 1968, there was confrontation with the police and law enforcement in protest of the war in Vietnam. Today, there still seems to be a systemic problem and disparity between the treatment of Black and White suspects! Black suspects are more likely to be labelled as thugs, shot and killed ,while White suspects are more likely to be labelled as mentally ill, treated with respect and even given burger and fries before going to jail! Is this the America of Dr. King’s dream? Even in Black communities, it seems as if Black lives only really matter when they are taken by the police; otherwise, it seems to be acceptable for Blacks to kill one another over drug, family, or personal disputes! Is this the Black America of Dr. King’s dream? Even many in the church, who are supposed to be setting the moral climate of justice, righteousness and equality for the community have forsaken the path and succumbed to the lures of fame, prosperity, and money! Is this the church of Dr. King’s dream or even the church that Jesus established?
It is fifty years later! We’ve come a long way; but we have such a long way to go! Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a man in and for his own time. We must quit looking and waiting for ‘another King’ and be kings and queens in our own right in our own generation. We don’t have to go to Washington, we can be agents of change, sources of inspiration and hope, right where we are! It is past time for our actions to be limited to reminiscing about what others have done in the past. We can’t get full off of yesterday’s lunch; we must cook and eat for today! Deep down inside all of us is everything needed to make an impactful difference in the world today. It’s fifty years later; the question is not whether or not the dream is still alive because it has been alive for ages! It didn’t start with Dr. King because it was alive in the hearts of the ancient prophets who spoke of a God who desired justice to roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream!
It is fifty years later! Dr. King lived and was killed for what he believed in! What about you and I today? Are we willing to take the necessary risks to stand up for justice and righteousness or will we be content to settle for the comfort of our own private prosperity as long as we are not directly impacted by the injustices and ills that still plague our society? Will we be content to just ‘talk about it’ or will we rise up and ‘be about it?’ I’ve heard all my life an old axiom that says: ‘Prayer changes things!’ But, the older I get and the more I study ‘the Book,’ I am convinced that is not entirely accurate. Prayer is not designed to change things; prayer is designed to change people so that people might change things!
It is fifty years later: Thank you Dr. King for allowing prayer to change you so that you were inspired to be an agent of change in your generation! Hopefully, we will eventually understand that you didn’t live and die for us to just remember and talk about you, but rather so that things would be easier for us to make changes in our own generation.