Monday, January 19, 2015

Remembering America's "Favorite Son" and "Founding Father"

ATLANTA, GA (PR) - "Today, we reflect on the life of one of America's greatest leaders and re-commit to advancing Dr. King's legacy of service and sacrifice in our community, state, and country," said Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who dedicated his life to advancing the cause of freedom and opportunity for all people, the Georgia Republican Party issued the following statements:

"The impact of Dr. King's life and sacrifice has made a way for so many individuals to fulfill their dreams," said Georgia Republican Party First Vice-Chairman Michael McNeely.  "Each year when we celebrate his life, society is reminded that the color of one's skin is not an indicator of who they are, but it is a person's character and determination that matters most.  When individuals refuse to be restricted by limitations that others may attempt to place on them, we all win."

"Dr. King had a new vision for a new America where men and women would be judged by their character rather than stereotyped by their color," said Georgia Republican Party Minority Engagement Director Leo Smith.  "I hope as we celebrate this momentous occasion, we will assess ourselves and reignite a desire to make Dr. King's dream an absolute reality."

"As our nation remembers the birthday of one of America's favorite sons, let us also remember the faith that compelled Dr. King to action," said Demetrius Minor of the Georgia Black Republican Council.  "I am compelled that it was his faith that gave him the boldness and freedom to stand for justice and demand equality."

"This day is a reminder of the litmus tests we must employ to determine what are ill suited cultural standards and what is morally right and constitutionally just," said Janelle Jones, Fulton County Republican volunteer.  "Dr. King beckons legislator and citizen alike to ask that question."

Triple Evils

On the occasion of this MLK Day during which we celebrate the achievements of America’s greatest “Founding Father”, I bring you two brief messages:

1) Please read and circulate the essence of the King Philosophy found at, which provides a good outline of the “holistic” MLK, who battled not only racism but the “Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and MILITARISM”.  ( His work in this regard, combined with the recent and ongoing tragedies and travesties in Ferguson, NY, OH, FL, and around the country, have inspired my next book, entitled “THUG NATION.”

2) The post-Ferguson new and renewed civil rights movement, largely youth led, is alive and growing, and the youth need our support. To that end I have started a fund to help provide some of their living expenses while they sacrifice their time to sustain this movement. 

If you would like to meet them and see them in action, every Tuesday night they have a public meeting in Atlanta (contact me for details).

Rich Pellegrino

How Shall We Celebrate Martin Luther King's Birthday
By Grace Lee Boggs

(originally published in Yes! Magazine, 2007)

Over the holidays my old friend Vincent Harding, the African-American historian who worked closely with Martin Luther King during the 1960s (Harding drafted King's 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech) spent several days with me. When he couldn't make it to my 90th birthday party in June, Vincent explained, he resolved to visit me during my 90th year and before I might be leaving this life.

A lot of our discussion centered around how in the last three years of his life, King called for a revolution in values against the triple threats of racism, materialism, and militarism. Why do most King celebrations back away from or ignore this message? Is it because he was going where most Americans don't want to go — so that there was almost a sigh of relief when he was assassinated?

King's challenge was not only directed to white people. As Vincent put it ten years ago: "All we need to do is look around us and see how much over the past 15-20 years we black folks have decided (consciously or not) to fight racism by seeking equal opportunity or a fair share in the nation's militarism and materialism. In other words, we have chosen to fight against one of the triple threats by joining the other two." 

King was deeply affected by the rioting, burning, pain, anguish, fears of youth in the cities of the north. He felt these children were his. In 1966, the year after Watts exploded, he lived on and off in the Chicago ghetto where he knew "the grapes of wrath are stored."

Listening to young people, he concluded that the education we need "in our dying cities" is education that empowers youth to participate in creating change in themselves and in their surroundings. That is why we founded Detroit Summer.

One night we invited a few people, mostly in their late teens and early 20s, to dialogue with Vincent. In response to their questions, he shared these thoughts:

"The most profound thing I learned from Martin Luther King was that change does not come automatically. Things do not change. People who are committed to change, who are change-makers, have to decide what kind of change they want to commit to."

Jimmy Boggs was always teaching around the question, How do you become the human being that you have the potential to become? You are not born a human being. It is a journey that you have to make.

During the mid-60s, we were wrestling with the contradiction that the Vietnam War was LBJ's war and at the same time LBJ was the best friend blacks had ever had as president. But as the war continued, Martin recognized that there was no way he could remain silent and be human. The invitation from Clergy and Laity Concerned to speak at Riverside Church gave him the opportunity to take a stand in a setting that made clear what was involved was not just politics but the need for a revolution in values.

During his last few years MLK knew he was a marked man. When I told this to a group of middle school students, a 13-year-old asked, "If King knew this, why didn't he just chill out?"

While I was thinking through how to respond, a 12-year-old girl came up and said, "What do you mean chill out? He had work to do."

What people believe in their hearts is what I call faith. Martin believed that we are all one; that there is a fundamental commonness. "Because I am a Christian I am called to speak not only for the poor of this country but also for the poor of Vietnam."
"I freed a thousand slaves;
 I could have freed a thousand more 
if only they knew they were slaves." 
–Harriet Tubman

Only after Malcolm X was assassinated and his autobiography — published only after King was assassinated — did we have the materials to recognize that there was a falsehood in setting up Martin Luther King vs. Malcolm. Malcolm decided that he couldn't continue Mr. Muhammed's non-involvement in the struggle. That is why he was killed.

Anger can get you out there, but as time goes on, it plays less of a role and we need to be clear about the vision, the spirit, the goal. Anger can add power to commitment to change, but there is also a danger in it.

Emma asked "How do you encourage students like those at my high school who are only interested in the latest gadget to truly honor King's birthday rather than just sleep in?"

Vincent replied, "You will probably have to push yourself by taking on more responsibility because you have had access to a new way of thinking... Maybe you could bring together a few of the people you hang out with and plan an event to commemorate King's assassination in April. You don't have to wait until next year."

A few days later Emma sent me an email saying:

"I loved going to the discussion. I was amazed at his level of enthusiasm about each question and it reminded me of what I love in teachers (particularly the good ones).

"Their amazing ability to make each person feel unique and that they are the only ones in the world who had ever thought of such a question; that you are a genius to think that way. I look forward to skipping homework on a regular basis and going to more discussions. Thanks.”


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