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Dr. King Day, what a day to remember

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Interesting day today. On the day we celebrate King's life and death, I had a mini-brush with death today. I wasn't the target, but I could have easily been a victim of a drive-by shooting today.

I park the car at the restaurant where I am about to have a meeting for a radio-hosting job. As I park, I hear 10-15 gun shots ring out behind me. I look in the rearview mirror and can't see what's going on. A car comes racing by me and stops a few cars in front of me. Two young men then run up to the car and start shooting at it. I duck down in the driver's seat and just wait for the exchange to end. If I didn't wait an extra minute or 2 in the car, I could have been the victim of a stray bullet.

On any occasion, this would have been a heart-wrenching ordeal, but this happened on Dr. King's holiday. I got out of the car and carried on to my meeting, not knowing if someone else was going to turn the corner and start firing again or even if one of the shooters saw me and thought I would recognize them or their car (I couldn't). I just told myself that I couldn't be moved and that I had to press on. We're too often forced to live in fear and I just decided that wasn't going to be my moment of fear.

During the meeting, I thought long and hard about how my life could have ended and how I didn't say goodbye to my wife the way I wanted to when I left the house. On the way home, Michael Baisden was airing his Dr. King show and Baba Dick Gregrory just finished his comments about how the 3 things that we do to kill ourselves quickly are not getting enough sleep, not drinking enough water, and not exercising. I get home and turn on the radio to listen to the rest of the show but the dial stops on WPFW (the radio station I just met with) and it is Dr. King's final speech. He speaks about not making it to the end goal with us. It was a day of symbolism all around.

On this day, I thank Dr. King and all civil rights activists for their work and I am saddened that the biggest threat to my livelihood is black on black crime from the same people I write to help uplift. I write, perform, and live for all of humanity, but I this work started from a long burning passion to see black people love themselves. It pains me to see this not happening in 2006 on a large scale. King day is seen by too many as a day off, a day to get a car deal, and a day to shake your butt because you can sleep in late. How many parties did you here advertised on the radio in horror (yes, horror) of Dr. King?

Humankind is on a serious path for destruction. You and I owe it to all who came before us to not lose focus. We are soldiers in this war and there will be casualties that won't always be physical. We must press on. If we kept the legacy of King alive everyday, we wouldn't need a holiday. My wife and I had an interesting debate about King's legacy which spun into a discussion of media images and black TV shows. I told her I was frustrated because in the 80s and 90s, we had a good balance of black programming with shows and now everything I see is comedy or promotes more black stereotypes. This is
the subject for a future blog so stay tuned.

I am proud that we have this holiday and with today's events, I am more inspired to press on with my work than ever before. We as soldiers in humanity's war against ignorance need to reflect 365 days a year on how to live peacefully. King's holiday should not be the equivalent of sinning 6 days a week and going to church on Sunday for purification. Let us live life to the fullest and if we learn anything from King this day (I learn something new every year), let us learn that life is fleeting so say what's on your mind and only apologize for being too stubborn to listen to anyone who may offer you a differing opinion. Think before you speak. Write before you fight and remember ”we are only as humane as our most inhumane soul." Peace be unto you.

With all due respect, we failed Mrs. King

 

Some believe that Mrs. King failed on several levels. This is in no way a departure point for discussion. If Mrs. King failed, then Dr. King failed, as well as Malcolm X, Nat Turner, Denmark Vescey, Harriet Tubman, and many others. These are all individuals who led their own lives and, often by default had to represent an entire movement. We cannot call people failures who lived their lives selflessly for others.

Furthermore, we do Coretta a disservice by comparing ourselves to her. I raise no human being to God-status, but I have a healthy respect for people who put their lives on the line for me and all who read this. It is a shame that we can raise rappers like the late Tupac to God or Malcolm X-status in his passing but be so critical of people who have never defamed the image of black people. Whether you are a Tupac fan or not, you cannot deny that during his lifetime, he hurt the black cause probably more than he helped it. Can we say the same for Mrs. King?

While we chastise Mrs. King for not carrying on her husband's legacy properly, let us not forget that she was her own person who created her own legacy. If a U.S. President dies, no one speaks of the former First Lady as having to carry on the legacy of her husband. They are allowed to just be. The Reverend Al Sharpton and many others spoke at length last week about all the bold moves Mrs. King took to keep them focused on the struggle, long after Dr. King passed. He credits her with keeping them on task and not becoming in mind and heart the same as their enemy. Through her death, she passed on another lesson to me through a quote from Al Sharpton: "She reminded us that when your heart us in the right place, your mind and body will go in the right direction."

It was entirely up to Mrs. King to promote her husband's legacy as she saw fit. I cannot speak for Dr. King, but I doubt he was looking down from his resting place in disgust at how she has failed him. If we are to not give credit to one man or woman for an entire movement, we should not blame one man or woman for the "failures" of that movement. In terms of the King Center, we should view the fact that the King children are disagreeing amicably (no defaming of each other in the media, for example) about the legacy of the Center as a testimony to their mother's teaching.

Is black America in disarray? Of course. All of America is. But we who are part of this next generation of leadership are old enough to no longer blame our ancestors and current elders for what they did not pass on. We know the mistakes of the past and have no excuse to not learn from those mistakes. We should be thinking about what 20-something-year-olds will be saying about us in 50 years and what we have "failed" to accomplish. Collectively, we are all failing our forefathers and mothers in some way, shape or form. At the same time, collectively, we need to continue to learn from what worked and what did not work in our historical continuum. In the struggle for human rights, the only people who "fail" are the people who truly are blind to the cause for social justice. Mrs. King was visionary for justice on par with any human being who has walked the face of this earth. Let's not let her down.