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).”
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)