Fifty Years Later

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.

Be the Change, Make the Change: My Thoughts on Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, & America

In the circles I travel, there is a familiar saying: “Prayer changes things!” But I have discovered that more often than not; prayer changes people and it’s the people changed by prayer who change things!

tmartinzimmermanAs I write this post, I am reflecting on the state of our nation in regard to the recent findings of the jury in the George Zimmerman trial. Whether we agree with the verdict of the jury or not, this case has brought to the forefront the age-old problem of respect, race, and ethnicity in America. On one hand there are those who cry for justice because they feel that justice was not served in this case. On the other hand, there are those who say that the verdict has been given and whether we like it or not, we need to move on.

In my opinion, I don’t think justice was served! It was tragic that an unarmed Black teenager was unnecessarily killed and it is tragic that his killer goes free with no repercussions! My thoughts and prayers are with the Martin family as they deal with the loss of a son and the loss of justice! My thoughts and prayers are also with George Zimmerman and his family as he and they deal with the reality that his actions were most likely motivated by the racial and cultural profiling that is rampant in America.

Now while I sympathized with the Martin family, I am at the same time, sickened by the hypocrisy of the Black community! This case received national attention and there is presently protest in the Black community and elsewhere ONLY because the victim was Black and the accused is perceived to be White! (Actually, according to Mr. Zimmerman; he is Hispanic) If George Zimmerman was a Black man, chances are, we would have never heard of this incident! Therefore I ask: What about the countless unarmed Black victims that are being gunned down EVERYDAY in Black communities as a result of Black on Black violence and crime? Who speaks for them? Where is the national outrage and protest about innocent unarmed Black children being killed in the crossfire of drug-turf wars in Black communities nearly every day! There is no national protest about that! Now again, this is not to minimize what happened to Trayvon Martin! But it very well could be that part of the reason other people de-value the lives of Black people is because Black people de-value the lives of Black people! We (I mean Black people) have run the Klu Klux Klan and other White-supremacy groups out of business! It wasn’t very long ago that Black parents feared their sons would be killed by the Klan; now Black parents fear their sons will be killed by other Black sons! Where is the national protest about that? We crucify Paula Dean for racial slurs she admitted to have uttered in the past; but what about the demeaning racial slurs Black people berate one another with in personal conversations, rap songs and videos every day? Call me old-school if you want, but to me, that is part of the problem! If you don’t respect yourself, it’s crazy to think other people will respect you! If we are going to boycott Paula Dean, we also need to boycott the gangster and hip-hop rappers who are getting paid to disrespect Black women and others with their profane lyrics!

So where do go from here? What do we do? To my White brothers and sisters, I would suggest that you remember that at the core, people are just people. It is not a person’s race or color that really defines them; it is their character! With that in mind, I would suggest we all take a serious look at revising a judicial system that has turned into a warehouse distribution center for the new plantations otherwise known as the penal system. To my Black brothers and sisters, we need to take responsibility for our own and respect ourselves! Quit being so quick to always place the blame on the “others” when often (not all the time; but more often than not) the blame is with the “brothers” (and sisters)!

How can change happen on a national scale? Don’t expect it to come through legislation or laws. It will come; one person at a time! It will come when we, as individuals, quit demanding, depending, or waiting on other people to change! If there is to be real change, then we as individuals, must be changed, be the change and make the change!