“…If any of you are around when I have to meet my day…I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others…tried to love somebody…tried to be right on the war question…tr(ied) to feed the hungry…tr(ied)…to clothe those who were naked…tr(ied) to visit those who were in prison…tried to love and serve humanity…(S)ay that I was a drum major…for justice…for peace…for righteousness…”
From the February 4, 1968 sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct” by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968).
5 thoughts on “In Memoriam”
It’s so hard to realize he has been gone far longer than he was with us. Thank God his words, his passion, and his memory still survive to inspire some of us in the U.S.
We need his living spirit right now, maybe even as much as or more than when he was leading the parade for justice and necessary change in the 1960’s.
Thank you for the reminder and the prompt, Paul. So much work yet to be done, so many steps to the Promised Land, the Beloved Community. We MUST keep on marching.
My dearest Karen, I am led to ponder how — as many have opined — freedom, when won in a given age is not necessarily a guaranteed bequest to the next generation, but rather must be attained again and again. In this, I also think how the dimensions (even the definitions) of freedom can change from one age or generation to another. Hence, what was an accomplishment in one era (say, MLK’s non-violent, yet nonetheless aggressive challenge to external, visible manifestations of racism, e.g., segregated facilities) necessarily needed to be reviewed so to revise the aim of the civil rights movement to challenge the principalities and powers that continued to wield power behind the scenes, quietly, but no less manifestly (say, in redlining/restrictive housing practices and limiting access to business capital). In any and every case, however, yes, we must keep marching. May we, even in our weariness, carry on!
Paul & Karen!! Loved your words!! I want someone to mention his words when I leave this world too!! And Karen we sure do need his words and spirit right now!! Kinda makes me wish there was a MLK COVID mask because if we had those maybe words filled with love & Justice would come out of our mouths more easily!!
In these fraught days we remember that the mechanics of law and government structures can be changed to make them more amenable to serving all Americans more justly, as many laws were, at least on the federal level, in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. But what is becoming ever clearer is that unless the hearts and minds of the people are equally touched, attended to, led, and transformed, structural changes that once moved us toward justice and peace can be undone, weakened, and become less and less effectual.
Deep transformations of hearts and minds are the real and lasting work of justice and love. I find myself praying more and more fervently for the courage and the wisdom to help forge such transformation in myself and in those of my fellow Americans who do not yet embrace the vision of Dr. King and countless other heroes who so faithfully served the calling of justice, love, and peace for all people.
Thank you, Paul, for never failing to keep that great, singular vision before us.
My beloved sisters, on this national day of commemoration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., two thoughts occur…
One, I oft recall that searing, searching question (as oft, without a ready reply), “After Martin, where and who are the prophets of this day who speak truth to power, indeed, who speak to worldly principalities with the power of truth (that being, in my mind and heart, love and justice, unconditional and impartial benevolence and fairness for all at all times)?” As I continue to think and feel, reflect and pray, I believe that we, in our varied and several life’s walks, are today’s prophets (which is to suggest that, thus, always it hath been so). Yes, history is replete with the sagas of singular individuals who have stood in the public square, their lips bursting with the cry of care for the least, the last, and the lost. Nevertheless, how oft hath it been when examining, for example, the formal Civil Rights Era, when we discovered before revealed unknown names and souls of those who, in their local places of being and doing, advanced the cause of liberty?
Two, I am struck, Karen, by your succinct expression of the historical arc of movement from “the mechanics of law and government structures (being) changed to make them more amenable to serving all Americans more justly, as many laws were, at least on the federal level, in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s” and that always necessity of “(d)eep transformations of hearts and minds (as) the real and lasting work of justice and love.” This puts me in mind of a sagacious and sobering word (of mindfulness and, indeed, warning) to me of the Right Reverend C. FitzSimons Allison, sometime bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina when I took charge of a congregation in Charleston in 1982: “Paul, race hath been resolved in the law, but it hath not been resolved in the hearts of men, for their sin resides.” So, it was then, so it is now. Laws — as decisions expressive, at least, I think, in one sense, of our communal discernment of what makes for life’s fulfillment and as moral “bumper rails” to keep our individual human vehicles of living from careening pell-mell into one another — can be passed, yet without (never with) any guarantee of the radical (that is, returning to and restorative of the root of our common humankindness as the grace of our creation) effect on our behaviors (which encompass our thinking and feeling, our intending and acting).
In the light of these two (at least, for me) realities, I daily pledge (tho’ oft, at day’s end, I behold how far I have fallen short) to be a prophet and to fulfill in my living our just (thus, demanding my discernment to distinguish from unjust) human laws.