January 16, 2012

Celebrating Martin Luther King Day Bill

Today's date is significant because it is Martin Luther King Day Bill. The official holiday, on the third Monday of January, began in 1986. It was the first new American holiday since 1948, when Memorial Day was created as a "prayer for peace" day. Also it was only the second national holiday in the twentieth century (the other was Veterans Day, created as Armistice Day in 1926 to honor those who died in World War I). King is the only American besides George Washington to have a national holiday designated for his birthday (those of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee and others are celebrated in some states but not nationwide).

Internationally, King is one of the few social leaders of any country to be honored with a holiday (Mahatma Gandhi's birthday is observed in India).

In honor of this date ... Martin Luther King Day ... we have the text of his speech I have a Dream. This speech by King was delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.


"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.

Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold, which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.

We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our White brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little White boys and White girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sometimes I worry that Martin Luther King's legacy has been reduced by many of us to this speech. Please share your village voice about MLK ... without referring to this speech. What other aspect of his life and legacy do you think is important for us to consider on this date?

40 comments:

Jennifer said...

Tolerance does not exist any more. People jump to conclusions before understanding a person.

Dr. King was about respecting and understanding the entire person before judging them.

Though this has always been the case of not having tolerance, it seems as though the situation has gotten worse.

How do we teach tolerance and patience especially in this digital age?! That is my qualm!

Villager said...

Jennifer - I think that teaching tolerance and respect for diversity is something we teach in the real world ... then it simply transfers itself to our digital space/age.

I agree that Dr. King was much more tolerant and understanding than the average man. Nonviolence as an answer to violence is hard to do...

Woozie said...

Dr. King did so well what most can't do, and that is lift people up when they need a hand.

He gave not just black people, but any disenfranchised person the world over, something to hope for. Something to dream about. Something to strive towards. In that respect he's quite a bit like Gandhi.

And it's somewhat saddening to see the dream* squandered by youth who shackle themselves to a life of crime, poverty, and premature death.

*Sorry for the speech reference, but "I Have a Dream" really did embody everything Dr. King was about, which is probably a reason why it is his most remembered address.

the teach said...

I had the pleasure of celebrating MLK Jr.'s birthday last week (Jan 15) on my blogs. Thanks for printing his speech so I could read it again...just wonderful! :)

ideacoach said...

This blog is an example of the excellence that Dr. King wanted us to strive towards. It is consistant in communicating current news and commentaries. It also challenges us to greatness. I just reviewed it on one of my blogs http://www.rosiesboomerreview.com
Keep up the great work.

Villager said...

Woozie - I agree that Dr. King lifted the hopes of disenfranchised people all over the world. Ghandi. MLK. Malcolm X. Do you think that we have any inspirational leaders on the world scene today like those three gentlemen?

Villager said...

Teach - I'll head over to your blog to see your MLK post. In posting the full speech I was reminded of how great an orator MLK was back in the day. Do we have such inspirational leaders in the world today?

Idea Coach - Thank you very much for the kind words. I'm heading over to your blog to see the review!

Woozie said...

Not off the top of my head, no. Barack Obama can certainly talk like them, but he's not a leader of that magnitude yet. If he can connect with the people he needs to connect with most, and if he can follow up on most of these somewhat lofty promises, then he very well could become a leader of that magnitude.

Woozie said...

There's a pretty good AP article getting across the same point you are.

Villager said...

Woozie - Thanx for the link to the AP article. I also couldn't think of a leader on the international scene such as Malcolm X, MLK or Ghandi. I guess that is a result of so many diverse voices getting into our homes with cable televison and the Internet ... hard to focus on a single voice as perhaps we could back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Obama is good ... but, I imagine he will need to become president in order to gain the status of the three gentlemen mentioned earlier.

Anyhow, Happy MLK Day!

Isisa said...

'Obama is good ... but, I imagine he will need to become president in order to gain the status of the three gentlemen mentioned earlier.'

Yes, Obama certainly has the fiber of greatness, he just needs the venue to let it shine. Obama's not just a smooth speaker though, a friend of mine was in Chicago back when Obama was working the streets there, and the guy gets things done.

The problem right now is that the Clintons are resorting to every imaginable reservoir of dirt, filth, slime, sleaze, race-baiting and even outright election fraud-- http://tinyurl.com/2yjxzb
in a desperate attempt to stop Obama, who nonetheless holds the lead among Democratic delegates and is racking up endorsements. Bill and Hillary KKKlinton are so lacking in scruples and basic decency, that they're willing to introduce the most vile form of plantation politics to make white voters nervous and divide us. The KKKlintons' message to us as African-Americans is, "We are your massahs, so keep your mouth shut and don't aspire to anything, and we'll toss you a few crumbs here and there." It's a full-on outrage.

If Hillary KKKlinton is nominated, I'm voting for a "Mc" in November-- McKinney or even McCain. No way I'd ever validate the KKKlintons' race-baiting and disenfranchisement with my vote, or else we'd be merely encouraging more of the same. My aim is to ensure we're not forced into that choice, by ensuring that Obama wins the nomination instead.

Villager said...

Isisa - No point in sullying this post about MLK with negative vibe about Bill or Hillary Clinton.

I do appreciate the background on Obama's work in Chicago. I agree that he simply needs a venue (as POTUS) to rise to level of Ghandi, MLK and other great leaders of the world.

Nancy Lindquist-Liedel said...

Too many times, we hear the nexxus of that speech and not the whole speech, all the words he spoke that day. Together, those words exude power. Power to change our world. Thank you for posting it.

frenchkys said...

That he, too, was just a father, son...man. Although we don't celebrate MLK day where I live, I think this day also celebrates the fact that we all have the potential for greatness in both the big and small things we do in our everyday lives.

Isisa said...

Sorry villager, I just feel like the sullying has already been done by the Clintons as it is, even against MLK himself.

Just seems like sometimes, even when you're above board and strive for unity and a better America in MLK's vision, narcissists like the Clintons come along and sully it so much that you're pushed into their same alley. Still, it's nice to know that speaking of alleys, Obama has the history in Chicago, of rolling up his sleeves in the alleys and lifting people up. Obama isn't just a masterful speaker, he's a doer.

I do agree with you though, this is one of the most special days on the calendar and I hope that we celebrate it. In fact, I find it especially telling that MLK's holiday is the first one that comes after the New Year. MLK really is one of our country's greatest representatives, and having him, his words and his holiday open our year, gives at least some faint message to the outside world that we can imagine a better nation and work toward it.

Cheerio said...

He was a great man.

Villager said...

Nancy - I didn't realize that the speech was as long as it was. You're right... often the essence of MLK's life is reduced to the line, "I Have a Dream". Anyhow, thanx for dropping by!

FrenchKys - I agree that MLK was more than just a great speaker and leader. His children appear to be well-adjusted and his wife stayed true to his memory through her lifetime as well.

Cheerio - Asante sana for your visit!

Gattina said...

I have never heard about a MLK day it's probably not a holiday in all States. He was a great man and even if he couldn't change a lot, a little has been done since.

BTW I think you mixed something up in my story. Mr. Gattino became my husband (now 38 years) and has no blog, lol the other guy I heard later married too had 5 children and died at 34 !

Jamie said...

One of the things I love about MLK Day is that it is always an occasion for the reading of his speeches as well as wonderful oratory from AA ministers across the country. It is very much a day dedicated to our better angels.

Villager said...

Gattina - Oops...thank you for clarifying my mistaken reading of your MM post! BTW, MLK Day is a national holiday signed into law by Ronald Reagan when he was president...

Jamie - If only we could learn to live by his principles the other 364 days of the year as well...

Mes Deux Cents said...

HI Villager,

I think Dr King gave us the gift of his vision. It is up to us to transfer that vision to our children and to non-Black people. That is in our collective best interest and the best way to honor Dr. King.


And thanks.

Villager said...

MDC - Some of us use our blogs to try to uplift our people in the way that MLK did with his voice and his movement. Your letter to MLK was tremendously powerful. My honor to showcase it for villagers that visit my blog!

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

nice dedication...chk out my post about the King THANK WE FREE

Shelia said...

Happy MLK Day Villager, and what a wonderful day it is to be alive!

I can never read or hear this speech enough. It's beauty, direction and soul are just eternal.

Thanks Villager!~~Shelia

Kat said...

Thank you, Mes Deux Cents for mentioning non black people on this day of remembering a great American...

Sometimes, I feel totally left out on this blog and totally condemned for sins not of MY fathers. Still, I try to keep myself informed of the perspective of black Americans.

So sorry if my skin is white. Thanks for including me and others like me, MDC. It is much appreciated.

Ash Joie-Lee said...

I posted a bit about this in my Manic Monday post today. I'm glad you had the speech posted, I enjoyed reading it today.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

I've not read this in years. Thanks for posting such a moving speech. Have a great MM. :)

Villager said...

Sandee - MLK had many speeches. I Have a Dream is the one that is the most famous. I'm glad to share the full text of it for villagers. He had other powerful speeches including one that was a letter ... Letter From a Birmingham Jail. Nice that we can reflect on him today.

All-Mi-T - Your post was OUTSTANDING. Your personal reflections lay it on the line in a powerful way. I see why your blog is described as raw!

Shelia - MLK's words bring us out the best in each of us. It would be nice to live up to those ideals the other 364 days per year.

Ash Joie-Lee - Thank you for visiting our blog today. MM brings many of us together!

Villager said...

Kat - First, thank you for sharing your village voice with us today. I sense your frustration when you write, "... Sometimes, I feel totally left out on this blog and totally condemned for sins not of MY fathers."

Admittedly, my blog is designed from an Afrikan-centered perspective. However, everyone, including you, are welcome to take a seat under the baobob tree.

I never expect villagers (the word we use for our blog readers) to enjoy or support all of our daily posts. However, I am hopeful that I provide information and perspective that is unique and worthy of your daily review or visit. Honestly, I could care less about the sins of both of our fathers. I'm more concerned with dealing with my own dayum sins and raising children that will do right in society.

All that being said ... I hope you come back often ... and share your village voice whenever you feel that we are missing a perspective that you feel is important.

peace, Villager

Travis said...

Tolerance in the face of intolerance, justice in the face of injustice, respect in the face of disprespect.

These are the things I think of when I think of Dr King. And these are the things I try to pattern my life after, every day.

Dixie said...

I posted with regards to Dr. King today as well.

Thank you for posting his very powerful speech.

Ian Thomas Healy said...

My oldest son wrote a short paper (and it was short - he's only 9!) on Dr. King for school. Even though he's only 9, he really liked reading about Dr. King's ideas. It made me smile to see that.

Ian

Villager said...

Travis - It would be great if more of us would remember the lessons of MLK in our daily lives. I appreciate your village voice and hope you'll come back often.

Ian - Your son's teacher should be acknowledged for using MLK as a 'learning moment' for her 9-year old students. Well done!

Dixie - Asante sana!

Kat said...

Ok Villager, Now I want to relay a story that speaks to your "Afrikan-centered perspective".

Many years ago, Lorraine Hale (of Mother Hale's House in Harlem, NYC) came to speak at my place of employment.

Among many other topics, she spoke of a time when she and her mother (and others) made a trip to the "Mother land Africa".

Upon arriving, she said she heard those who were there to greet them say, "The Americans are here, the Americans are here!".

She spoke of how she felt like she was going "home" but the reaction received was that she (and the others) were "Americans". And indeed, they were.

Thought you might like to hear of her experience. In the end, we are all Americans and must put aside silly notions that gender and color are relevant except in celebration of our diversity.

Peace, Kat

Jennifer said...

Mr. Villager - I received a flippant response to Dr. King's legacy by a comedian named David Spates.

I thought before coming here and showing you this video but it actually annoyed that he totally missed the mark of Dr. King's Legacy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtugYg42mmc

I wrote the comment to him as Najenn on youtube then of course he pretty much laughed me off and then I got him AGAIN on my MOG account where he decided to use my music journal to publicize himself.

So I wrote him back as 2Serenity there.

This was the post:

http://mog.com/2Serenity/blog_post/138815

My response:

@davidspates - lord have mercy. I cannot believe you did that. However, I hope in reality you know the REAL meaning behind DR. King's birthday. A lot of HELL went down to bring his day and it is supposed to be a day of service and not one of sleeping in. However, I grew up always celebrating and doing something to honor Dr. King not only on his birthday but everyday.

This kind of put a bad taste in my mouth when a white radio DJ in DC said it would be best to kill other black leaders so we could have an entire week off to just do nothing. Sorry, but that is not what Dr. King was about. It was the Greaseman in DC who said this: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/greaseman-faq/

Though you can have your humor times, please do not make a mockery of Dr. King's birthday.

So many sacrificed for you to have the life you have now to even make the video.

Since you are extremely creative and resourceful, have you thought of actually using your skills to teach something of positivity about your rich history?! Think about it the next time you want to sleep in on a holiday to honor a man who was for tolerance and activism on all levels.

I really wonder about my generation sometimes. Thank you for allowing me to share.

Villager said...

Kat - Thank you for sharing the story. I am hopeful to travel to the African continent before I kick the bucket. I am not confused about the fact that I'm an American of African descent. The truly tragic thing is that there are 49 countries in Africa ... and your guest speaker ... nor I ... have any idea which of the 49 countries is where our ancestors came from because of the institution of slavery in our country.

Anyhow, I understand that many Americans of European descent truly feel a connection with their "mother country" when they get a chance to go overseas to visit and re-connect with their roots. I'm sorry that your guest speaker didn't feel the connection.

peace, Villager

Villager said...

Jennifer - Thank you for sharing the information about the DJ. I haven't heard of him before. He is being totally disrespectful of the MLK legacy and you did right by calling him on it!

Spirited Strider said...

It is nice to read the text as well as hear it. I honored MLK by posting the speech in video format, so you can hear and see it on my blog posting from last Monday.

http://spiritedstrider.blogspot.com

Always inspiring... He was a great leader. Barbara

Villager said...

Barbara - Thank you for sharing your village voice with us. I hope you find reason to come back often!

I agree with you ... MLK was truly a great man!

Villager said...

All - I'm sure that Martin Luther King Jr. is proud of the way that Obama is fulfilling MLK's legacy...