Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 and died on April 4, 1968; the thirty-nine years between his birth and his death would spark a revolution and establish a legacy that shall never be forgotten. Dr. King was a clergyman, activist, humanitarian, and leader In the African-American Civil Rights Movement; his non-violent approach inspired a nation of believers, of every ethnicity, to stand, march, hope and dream together that one day freedom would be embraced by all of mankind that was created equal, to be treated equal. From the power and compassion of his “I Have a Dream Speech” to his noticeable influence during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and the historic March on Washington of 1963, Dr. King never wavered in his faith nor his belief in a better, more prosperous life for all of mankind. His goal was never to prove that African-Americans were better than, but only that they would become equal to; his heart’s purpose was that all of God’s people would live the life that God destined for them to live. Here is the charge; be about a cause that brings about positive change, or become a part of the negativity that cannot help, but breed corruption and discontentment.
The purpose of this article is not to give you a lesson in history or an overview of all of Dr. King’s great accomplishments; as those stories shall be shared for generations to come. The purpose of this article is to ignite a fire and passion inside of you that will empower you to be an agent of change; one who makes a difference in your community just as Dr. King made a difference in his community. Little did he know that the difference he was making would outgrow his community, and inspire individuals from all walks of life and all over the world. He dared himself to speak the words that would pierce ears and challenge traditional beliefs. He dared himself to orchestrate boycotts that would put all participants at risk of being jailed, physically harmed, or possibly killed.
He dared himself to not only be the voice of change, but an instrument used to encourage that change on an American society not yet ready to embrace equality. An American society not ready to see color as anything more than that: color. Not only did he write and give speeches that urged so many to get involved, he performed the works. He was arrested for his actions, and led the marches instead of watching from afar and basking in the light of his own glory. Dr. King was a humble servant, not perfect, however willing to be about God’s business until a breakthrough occurred. Out of the many demands and challenges he placed upon himself; the most important challenge he placed upon generations present and future was to never accept what is forced upon you, particularly when what is forced upon you is wrong. Not only wrong for you, but wrong for others as well. His words, his life, and his legacy challenge us all to do better and be better. Although your arms may not embrace the pain of struggle, how dare you not help those who are struggling? We have lost sight of Dr. King’s dream because we are too busy involving ourselves in an abnormal reality that still spews hatred, bigotry, and inequality. His charge to himself and others? Be about a cause that brings about positive change, or become a part of the negativity that cannot help, but breed corruption and discontent.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. His legal name at birth was Michael King; King’s father had also been born Michael King. However, his father decided to change both their names during a 1934 trip to Nazi Germany while attending the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin. It was during his trip he chose the name Martin Luther King in honor of the great German reformer Martin Luther. Dr. King was born a reformer, a leader, a revolutionary, and a history maker; it was not only in his blood, but it was in his chosen name. A destiny awaited him that would shake the foundation of racism and segregation and impact a world that kept its eyes fixed on the state of American politics, policies, and affairs.
Who was this black man from Georgia, causing all this upheaval and uproar? How dare this “colored boy” not fear repercussion enough to go with the flow instead of against the tide? One can only imagine the fire that burned on the inside of Dr. King’s heart that kept him pressing forward even when fear and fatigue told him otherwise. The passion that drove him to stand against and push beyond barriers even when so many voices of reason told him to stand down and not take things too far. Originally, King was skeptical of many Christianity’s claims; however, he later concluded that the Bible has “many profound truths which one cannot escape” and decided to enter the seminary. In 1954 at the age of twenty-five, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Ph.D. degree on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman”. From his upbringing to his skepticism of Christianity, to his pastoral calling and education, Dr. King’s journey was one of questions, leadership, and commencement – all things used as a catalyst to skyrocket Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not to success, but into purpose.
At 6:01 p.m., April 4, 1968, a shot rang out as Dr. King stood on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. A bullet entered through Dr. King’s right cheek, smashing his jaw, and then traveling down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder. After emergency chest surgery, King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 7:05 p.m. In a little over an hour the “colored boy” from Georgia was dead; those who had him assassinated, hoped that his “dream of equality and free at last speeches” died right along with him.
After such a violent example of what happens when you push a little too hard or go a little too far; who would dare take up the torch and run with the dream Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so proudly believed in? Who would have the fortitude to see it through and inspire others to join the movement? Indeed Dr. King became an icon of The Civil Rights Movement. During his lifetime, he encountered success, failure, and death all in the name of justice; however, it goes beyond justice in the form of racial equality – Dr. King’s hope was for justice in the form of racial unity. Although we read about his cause, become inspired by his passion, is it really enough? We take one day out of the year to recognize him for his great achievements, but is it really enough? What are we doing to keep the dream alive?
As violence increases and drug abuse runs rampant in our communities, why are we not taking up the torch and setting ablaze the system designed to manipulate our common sense; so that we may embrace misery and become victims because of our own incompetence and unwillingness to be different. Dr. King was different. He was a pioneer and a trail-blazer. The claim has never been that he was the only one who made history by sparking a revolution of change for the purpose of civil rights; the claim is that as we celebrate his life let us also remember why he lived.
Let us not forget the motivations for his life and death. There was not much about Dr. King’s upbringing, personal life, or family mentioned in this article and for good reason. Talking about his personal life style may touch your heart, but will it change your way of thinking? Will a lesson in history motivate you to be an agent of change? Dr. King’s history has been taught since his death over forty years ago; his legacy has been remembered at least once a year for the last forty plus years. However, have we become any better? Would hearing all the particulars of his marriage to the beautiful Coretta Scott King and their family life inspire you? This article was not written to be liked or debated; it was written to hopefully empower you to make a difference.
There are issues in your community that need to be addressed. Are you addressing them and if you are not, why? We have become a people quick to complain and very slow to act. Let this article move you to make a difference; because until you do, you will be nothing more than a part of the norm instead of the exception. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was and shall always be the exception.
Written by Lonnie Hamilton
Listen to Lonnie at: Flip and Flex Radio 109.9
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