Forty years have passed since the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. America lost a pure soul and a charismatic leader who tried to unite people. Many television programs devoted time to memorialize one of the true kings of justice and equality. His surname is such an appropriate fit.
Someone said that “Dr. King is more alive today.” He certainly lives collectively in the hearts of many Americans and people from all over the world and many of us can recall and recite different excerpts from his famous speeches. Perhaps what we should remember more is that Dr. King knew that humanity had a life lesson to learn. He knew that it may not have been learned or internalized immediately. And forty years later, that lesson is just as pivotal. We must be “appalled at the silence of good people.” Too many of us continue to accept injustice. We see the hundreds of homeless individuals on the streets of every major city in this country and do very little to change what must be an intolerable state of existence.
Martin L. King III reminded us recently that the best way to honor Dr. King’s memory is to do something to eliminate the poverty in this country. He cited that there are 36 million Americans that live in poverty. That is appalling. Twelve million children live in poverty. That is appalling. Where have the good people been for the last forty years? Jonathan Kozol has called it “Savage Inequalities” as he has observed in the poorer school districts of our more important cities. He has eloquently described the educational system and what is lacking. It is appalling. According to the census data compiled by Kids Count, in Louisiana, twenty eight percent of people under the age of 18 live in poverty. Mississippi statistics report 30 percent and New Mexico falls in the third place with twenty six percent of this age group living in poverty. This is appalling.
Dr. King spoke of the “triple evils of poverty, racism, and violence” and forty years later as his son calls for us to reflect on these three evils, we have more prisons than ever to house our violent criminals. We are bombarded by violence everywhere from the children’s cartoons to television and movies. And, forty years later, yes, racism is still alive. Should we be concerned about the time that has elapsed?
Well, according to Dr. King, “time is never right and never wrong; time is what we make it.” So, it is about time that we make good use of the time. We must start a roll call at churches, schools, community centers, and any type of organization that claims in their statements of mission that any or all of the triple evils have to be dealt with collectively. We must not only roll up our sleeves but be prepared to remove all the obstacles that obscure or shroud the clock of time well used.
We all view as prophetic or as a premonition Dr. King’s last speech that fatal day in Memphis. But, his very last words to Ben Branch, a musician are mind boggling.
Dr. King asked him to play his favorite song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”
The following is an excerpt:
When the darkness appears
And the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
Our nation is capable of making good of the time. We must think of ourselves as a great corporation. The stakeholders must all invest and help others to grow. We must keep our eyes on the clock and make sure that when the time comes for us to clock out that we have worked hard to effect social justice. We must emulate the work of the king of social justice and civil and human rights. Our politicians need to roll up their sleeves and walk the walk. It is time.
We must remember that Dr. King was only twenty six years old when he started his journey to effect change. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and was the youngest person to have received it at the time. He professed economic justice for all. He was here for a very short time; very much in the presence of good and with a great consciousness of what had to be done. We have a long way to go. We are better equipped to get more people involved. There are no excuses. Representative John Lewis said that Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. “redeemed the soul of America.” We must live up to that redemption one by one.