Nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 18
By Brandon Reid
The nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, Jan. 18.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the leader of the civil rights movement in the United States until April 4, 1968, when he was shot and killed while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. King was 39.
King was 21 when he was first introduced to the nonviolent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi at a lecture about Gandhi by Howard University President Mordecai Johnson in the spring of 1950. In 1964, at the age of 35, he became the youngest man, the second American and the third black man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Aug. 2, 1983, creating a legal public holiday in honor of King, who was born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta.
In addition to fighting for equal rights for all, King also fought against the war in Vietnam and hunger across the globe.
In his “Beyond Vietnam” address, given at Riverside Church in New York City April 4, 1967, King railed against the war in Vietnam: “It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago, he said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’ Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken: the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. 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, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
In his sermon “So Precious that you will Die for it,” given Nov. 5, 1967, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King said: “I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live. You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house. So you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right. You died when you refused to stand up for truth. You died when you refused to stand up for justice. …
“Don’t ever think that you’re by yourself. Go on to jail if necessary, but you never go alone. Take a stand for that which is right, and the world may misunderstand you, and criticize you. But you never go alone, for somewhere I read that one with God is a majority. And God has a way of transforming a minority into a majority. Walk with him this morning and believe in him and do what is right, and He’ll be with you even until the consummation of the ages. Yes, I’ve seen the lightning flash. I’ve heard the thunder roll. I’ve felt sin breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul, but I heard the voice of Jesus saying, still to fight on. He promised never to leave me alone, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone.”
See the Vibe Entertainment “Community Calendar” for area King Day events.
From the Jan. 13-19, 2010 issue.
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