Monday, January 20, 2014


Today is set aside to honor the memory and the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.  All across America celebrations will be held.  The problem is that very few of those will  "celebrate" the real Martin Luther King, Jr.  There will be singing and dancing and politicians and religious figures galore.  Everyone loves Martin Luther King, Jr. TODAY.  

They didn't all love him when he was alive.  J. Edgar Hoover thought he was the most dangerous man in America.  He didn't mean that as a compliment.  He wasn't alone in that thought.  I remember the racial slurs directed his way at my high school by the majority of kids there.  I won't repeat them here.

Confession of my own.  I thought of myself back then as a Malcolm X guy.  I loved the Panthers.  Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael were heroes to me.  All of that is still true.  What isn't true today is the simple fact that I didn't understand Dr. King.  The more militant I grew then, the more I though of him as a man preaching a sermon of non violence at a time when turning the other cheek had to end.  I dismissed, in my young mind, Dr. King as just way too moderate and as a man whose days had passed him by.  Fortunately, I did have enough sense to realize that it wasn't up to a white guy like me to really even make such decisions privately, let alone publicly.  I pretty much kept my big mouth shut.  

I didn't get it.  It took a while for me to get it.  I did eventually have the brains and experience to realize there was so much more to Dr. King then I realized.  I was blinded by what I thought was my own revolutionary zeal.

I am a person who dismisses the "great person" theory of history, but really, can you imagine what might have been if both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X had lived?  Can you imagine those two, whose directions were moving toward each other, alive would have meant?  I know they were just two human beings, but I honestly believe the world could have been much different...not just because of  these two human beings, but of what they meant to so many.

But that just could not be.

Those were the two most dangerous men in America and America knew it.

And the rest is history.

So today while so many are talking about a Martin Luther King who everyone always loved, I will share a kept of articles about the Martin Luther King, Jr. who so many feared.

And I apologize for the misguided opinion I held as a youth.

The first article below comes from the San Francisco Bay View.   The second is from the American Prospect.  Neither is particularly current, but both tell us about a Martin Luther King, Jr.  the powers that be wanted to erase back then and still want to erase today.

Beyond the dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and Africa

August 27, 2013
by Harold Green
“In this period when the American Negro is giving moral leadership and inspiration to his own nation, he must find the resources to aid his suffering brothers in his ancestral homeland.” – Martin Luther King Jr., Hunter College, New York City, Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, 1965

When discussing the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., especially his “I Have a Dream Speech,” what is often missed is his concern for global justice, particularly in Africa. While Dr. King’s outspokenness about the Vietnam War toward the end of his life has been well documented and discussed, his views about the need to support anti-colonialism and anti-Apartheid in Africa is less so.
Martin Luther King, Coretta in Ghana 0357
Dr. King and Coretta King attend the independence celebration in Ghana in March 1957. Six years later, speaking at Western Michigan University on Dec. 18, 1963, he said: “I can remember when Mrs. King and I first journeyed to Africa to attend the independence celebration of the new nation of Ghana. We were very happy about the fact there were now eight independent countries in Africa. But since that night in March 1957, some 27 new independent nations have come into being in Africa. This reveals to us that the old order of colonialism is passing away, and the new order of freedom and human dignity is coming into being.”
Dr. King was very much aware of our connection to Africa and clearly understood the parallels between our struggle for freedom here and the struggle for freedom on “the continent.” Having attended the inauguration of Kwame Nkrumah as prime minister of newly independent Ghana – King was in Ghana from March 4-27, 1957 – Dr. King was quick to recognize this connection.
Dr. King spoke of being overcome with emotion during the independence ceremony, as he understood the historical significance of the moment on the one hand and the source of inspiration Ghana’s independence meant for the fight for freedom of Black people in America on the other.

Dr. King was very much aware of our connection to Africa and clearly understood the parallels between our struggle for freedom here and the struggle for freedom on “the continent.”

Upon his return to America, Dr. King would talk about his impressions of his trip to Ghana in a sermon entitled, “The Birth of a New Nation.” Within that sermon, Dr. King talked about continuing to fight not just against segregation but also against colonialism, imperialism and exploitation in Africa. We forgive Dr. King who did not have the benefit of African centered scholarship at the time for his historically inaccurate references to Egypt in this sermon. Dr. King would eventually speak out against Apartheid in South Africa and as early as 1964 was calling on “Western” powers to impose economic sanctions on the racist regime.
I have to admit that as a young student activist, I never embraced Dr. King’s philosophy of passive resistance; nonetheless, time has allowed me to take full measure of the man and recognize that this monumentally heroic figure, was far more complex and engaged in the world – especially the African world – than his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech” reveals.
King was in the audience in Ghana and heard Kwame Nkrumah say, “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa,” during Nkrumah’s Independence Day speech. It has even been suggested that the phrase “free at last” was influenced by similar words Nkrumah spoke in that speech.
Dr. King was also extended and accepted an invitation from Nnamdi Azikiwe to attend Azikiwe’s appointment as governor general of Nigeria on Nov. 16, 1960. Nigeria had declared its independence from Britain on Oct. 1, 1960.
Dr. King was no doubt an internationalist when it came to the issue of human rights. His views and concerns were not confined to the geographical boundaries of the United States. Dr. King would visit the United Nations, where he met with many leaders of the world, but specifically those African leaders of newly independent countries and those whose independence had not yet been achieved.
Thus, what should not be overlooked is the view that Dr. King shared with Malcolm X, that the plight of the Black man in America was one of a violation of his “human rights” and not just civil rights and that America should be brought before the United Nations, where the plight of African Americans could be raised. Part of this strategy involved the solicitation of those newly independent African countries, which could offer resolutions condemning “Apartheid in America” and embarrass America before the international community.

Dr. King was no doubt an internationalist when it came to the issue of human rights.

What should also not be overlooked is the inspiration the civil rights and Black power movements in America provided to the various independence movements in Africa. Dr. King, like Malcolm X, sought to grow this connection as the above quote clearly indicates and understood the system of “white supremacy” was global and needed to be defeated globally.
Additionally, Dr. King realized the importance to Blacks in America, having been snatched from Africa and having lost our culture and identity, of reclaiming that culture. It is through this process of reclaiming African culture, Dr. King would go on to say, that we will regain our humanity. Dr. King’s growing international views would not be welcome by the system of “global white supremacy,” of course, and even some of his close Black associates would eventually become detractors.
When J. Edgar Hoover described Dr. King as “the most dangerous man in America,” those were foreboding words. But with Dr. King’s growing outspokenness on international matters, J. Edgar Hoover’s view was no doubt shared by forces involved in exploiting Black people and other people of color in other parts of the world.
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” let us not forget it was a speech inspired by his desire to see all people in the world free from injustice, but especially those of African descent – at home and abroad – something not lost on many Africans on the continent today.

Dr. King, Forgotten Radical

Long before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, America began to forget his true legacyAmerica began perverting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message in the spring of 1963. Truthfully, you could put the date just about anywhere along the earlier timeline of his brief public life, too. But I mark it at the Birmingham movement's climax, right about when Northern whites needed a more distant, less personally threatening change-maker to juxtapose with the black rabble rousers clambering into their own backyards. That's when Time politely dubbed him the "Negroes' inspirational leader," as Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff point out in their excellent book Race Beat.
Up until then, King had been eyed as a hasty radical out to push Southern communities past their breaking point -- which was a far more accurate understanding of the man's mission. His "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is in fact a blunt rejection of letting the establishment set the terms of social change. "The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation," he wrote, later adding, "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
Shame that quotation rarely makes it into the sort of King remembrances that will mark today's 40th anniversary of his assassination. Generations after the man's murder, our efforts to look back on his life too often say more about our own racial fantasies and avoidances than they do about his much-discussed dream. And they obscure a deeply radical worldview that remains urgently important to Americans' lives. Today, I don't mourn King's death so much as I do his abandoned ideas.
We've all got reason to avoid the uncomfortable truths King shoved in the nation's face. It's a lot easier for African Americans to pine for his leadership than it is to accept our own responsibility for creating the radicalized community he urged upon us. And it's more comfortable for white America to reduce King's goals to an idyllic meeting of little black boys and little white girls than it is to consider his analysis of how white supremacy keeps that from becoming reality.
Take, for instance, his point that segregation's purpose wasn't just to keep blacks out in the streets but to keep poor whites from taking to them and demanding economic justice. There's a concept that's not likely to come up in, say, the speech John McCain was rumored to be planning for today. "The Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow," King lectured from the Alabama Capitol steps, following the 1965 march on Selma. "And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than a black man."
It's thoughts like those that made him decidedly less popular at the time of his death than today. The bloom started to wear off King's media rose when he turned his attention to Northern racism. The central defense Southern segregationists offered when thrust on the national stage was that their Jim Crow was no more of a brute than the North's. King agreed, and in announcing his organization's move into Chicago, he called the North's urban ghettos "a system of internal colonialism not unlike the exploitation of the Congo by Belgium." And he named names, pointing to racist unions as one of a dozen institutions conspiring to strip-mine black communities. So much for "inspirational." But then, like now, nobody wanted to hear such talk -- only the black press paid any attention.

Later, when a white mob hurled bricks and cherry bombs at marchers in Chicago, King told reporters that the scene outdid anything below the Mason-Dixon Line. "I have never in my life seen such hate," biographer Taylor Branch quotes him as saying. "Not in Mississippi or Alabama." Today, we hear little about the ideas that experience provoked for King: His deathbed blueprint for changing America's caste systems included a three-pronged attack on racism, poverty, and war.
It's that last charge, to fight war-making, that got him in the most trouble during his time and that gets most readily ignored today. Despite grenades of criticism from his fellow civil-rights leaders, his erstwhile ally in the president, and the press, King declared he had no choice but to stand up against the Vietnam War. But what's striking is the still red-hot relevance of his reasoning, a perspective also likely to be left out of the dreamy platitudes delivered on days like today.
King called the armed forces a "cruel manipulation of the poor" and likened war funding to "some demonic destructive suction tube," siphoning off resources needed to deal with pressing domestic issues. And he warned that our zeal for the fight reflected "a far deeper malady in the American spirit," one which drives us to consider the protection of our "overseas investments" to be a greater imperative than the preservation of life. The 1967 speech bears quoting at length:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
It's to our detriment that we whitewash all of these valuable ideas from our national memory of King. But the greatest tragedy may be that African Americans have morphed his belief in the power of community into a follow-the-leader obsession. Each King holiday and memorial spawns another round of "Where's Waldo?" pondering over who our new leader is, or should be, or if one exists at all.
I suspect King's answer would be who cares? Indeed, while the rest of the civil-rights establishment cringed when black college students launched their own, amorphous movement of sit-ins, King applauded it. He called the student movement "a revolt against Negroes in the middle class who have indulged themselves in big cars and ranch-style homes rather than joining a movement for freedom," according to Branch. Today's preoccupation with naming King's successors seems similarly trivial.
Black America first anointed King its savior after he stormed onto the national scene in Montgomery, holding together the prolonged 1954 bus boycott with nightly speeches in which he exhorted everyone to stay the course. Jet magazine called him "Alabama's Modern Moses." We've been waiting for another prophet since he was gunned down on April 4, 1968. I just wish our last one would come back and remind us that our power lies not in leadership but in a collective refusal to be oppressed.

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