“If Martin were here…”


Since that fourth day of April 1968, nearly a half-century ago, when a sniper’s bullet took the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. –

the prophetic voice of his era,
the advocate for justice and the advancement of civil rights for all people,
the herald calling for the day that America, in the words of the poet laureate of Harlem, Langston Hughes, “be America again, the land that never was, yet must be”(1) –

countless have been the commentaries of folk, on the reigning iniquities of inequalities in their days, channeling the spirit of Martin, saying, “If Martin were here, he would say (fill in the blank) and he would do (fill in the blank).”

Though sincere and well-intentioned are they and I, for I have given voice to such language, I believe such imagining is precisely that: Imagining. For I do not and cannot profess to know what Martin would say or do in this day.

However, if Coretta Scott King, Martin’s beloved wife and soul-mate in the struggle for equality, is correct (and I believe she is) that “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation”,(2), then, for us, the truest, most faithful word in the face of injustice is: “As we are here, we say (fill in the blank) and we do (fill in the blank).”

what do
you and I
say and do?


(1) Let America Be America Again (1935), a poem by James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
(2) My Life with Martin Luther King Jr., revised edition: 1969/1993), page xiii, Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

4 thoughts on ““If Martin were here…”

  1. Thanks as always Paul! I woke up today feeling sad and wanting to lay in bed all day, not honoring Dr. King or serving anyone but myself. But at the last minute I dressed for the 19 degree temperature and headed to the wreath laying ceremony at the MLK Memorial. Driving downtown I thought hard about what I can do to help with equality and justice as MLK’s legacy mandates that we all do. My service in honor of Dr. King will be to help people of color who are caregivers have the same access to services as everyone else. Getting turned down for a house call from a doctor because of the zip code my mom lives in (code for we’re Black) is unacceptable! I’ve spoken with many people in Eldercare services since this incident and will be working with the State House in Annapolis to ensure equality in health care services regardless of where people live! We need to be healthy to keep MLK’s Dream alive! I haven’t been as cold as I was this morning at the ceremony for a long time, but I’m so thrilled that I went. I am now “fully awake” for the work ahead! So Paul, That’s what I’m going to do!!

    Much love & thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved your FB pic of you at the MLK Memorial (but I AM happy I wasn’t out there in that cold; sorry you had to endure it!).

    And when you posted in another place about the physician not making house calls at your mother’s address (indeed, read: Black), I was stunned. I suppose I shouldn’t have been, for I can be surprised, but I do not consider myself naïve. Still, in regard to an elderly patient, especially one, as Doris, in the tender state of dementia, to refuse to go to her and to attend to her needs is, for me, beyond the farthest boundary of disregard. Bless you for taking up yet another challenge to seek to have care provided where and when and to whom.

    Love and peace and strength and patience and perseverance in the struggle. A luta continua = the struggle continues!


  3. We will keep struggling!!!!! The cold was nothing really when you think about all that our people have been through. Secretary Zinke of Interior was there and promised to have heaters next year! I’m a charter member of the Memorial and always get an invite to the wreath laying but have never been avail to go! Given the state we are in in this country I was not missing it today!!

    I think we’re gonna need that love and peace and patience and perseverance for at least the next few years!!


  4. Loretta, for the longest time – back in my younger days – I hope, believed that things, life continually would get better, more prosperous, more peaceful. O’er time, as I look out at the world, I think I’ve been disabused of that notion, which now, in our day and time, seems fanciful…illusory. So, yes, I do agree we will need all the “love and peace and patience and perseverance” that we can muster and that the Spirit of God will bestow, which, I pray, is in infinite supply.


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