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January 21, 2008

Dr. King’s Call

Derek Shackelford

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is arguably the greatest orator of the last 50 years in America. Today portions of some of his Speeches will be played to celebrate the federal holiday celebrating his birth.

Many will quote the excerpts that make us feel warm and fuzzy. The words that make us comfortable in believing that all is okay and all of us have arrived.

While it may be true that some things have gotten better, it should be noted that we still have a long way to go. We cannot rest on our laurels, nor get comfortable in meandering mediocrity. Today’s times require us to challenge the corridors of comfort. We have been given spiritual and emotional Novocain to lull us to sleep in thinking that no struggle is necessary and as long as a few of us have made it, then we should be satisfied in this state.

But the masses are struggling. What would Dr. King’s response be to the issues of today?

Hurricane Katrina and the neglect of the people in the Gulf Coast region. The Iraq War and the loss of life of the American and Iraqi people. The economic disparity that exist between the haves and the have nots.

The steady rise in domestic violence.

The predatory lending scandal and unfair housing practices by financial institutions.

The focus on entertainment instead of education.

The lack of appreciation for learning, listening, and marching instead of jumping, running, and shooting.

The demeaning and dehumanization of people around the globe.

The constant disagreements that occur in our political system.

The spiritual lethargy that exists in many of our religious institutions.

One of Dr. King’s speeches that I listen to often is "I've Been to the Mountaintop."

When I think about this speech two parts stick in my hearing. At the beginning of the speech, Dr. King talks about the storm that is raging outside that night and the storm that is ahead in the movement. He said: "you are determined to go on anyhow."

Despite the impending trouble that is on the horizon the people in attendance on that particular evening were determined to go forward. Are you and I determined to go anyhow in spite of opposition...?

The second part is nothing short of poetic genius; Dr. King ignites the imaginative with the surreal in his description of viewing the Promised Land. He King talks about the difficult days ahead.

The surreal part comes when Dr. King foreshadows his own death. The difficult days didn’t matter because he was able to see the end result, past the struggle of humanity.

He was allowed for an instance to view the Promised Land from a perspective that many of us can not see or even imagine.

Somehow, someway God had taken him up a little higher to visualize and dream about what many of us are experiencing today. We have the nerve and the audacity to get comfortable in the midst of struggle.

It is times like these, Beloved where we must be more diligent, more vigilant, and more determined to allow all of us to get to the Promised Land.

Yes, difficult days are ahead; but where would we be if were not for Dr. King and others who paved the way for our liberation?

There were smarter people than we; but they did not have the opportunity to go to college, to work in a law office or live in an upwardly mobile neighborhood. Don't think for one second we got in on our own merit.

Imagine sitting around where we live and work discussing whether the Civil Rights Movement was relevant. It was relevant just from the mere fact we can have the discussion in our respective venues.

So, today, friends, this is a call to action and not reaction; a call to give, not to take; a call to serve, not to be served; a call to stand, not to sit; a call to be strong, not to be weak; a call to be heard, not to be silent; a call to remember, not forget.

Think about your children and those after you who should have a better opportunity than we did.

But it will take sacrifice...Are you willing...???

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