April 24, 2017

Historical marker dedicated to MLK at Memphis airport

06 April 2017, 02:43 | Elizabeth Houston

Byron Williams: King's speech of 50 years ago today should resonate


Supporters of the Black Lives Matter and Fight for $15 movements march down the streets of Memphis on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. Some 168 newspapers across America denounced his position, and The New York Times ran an editorial titled "Dr. King's Error". And as King claimed the bombs we dropped on Vietnam also exploded in American cities, the blowback to the United States from all the anger we sow and enemies we reap in these countries and around the world, will surely harm our country.

Most of us - conservative and liberal - would likewise tune out or mock King's insistence on loving our enemies.

One year before his death, Martin Luther King Junior gave a speech denouncing the Vietnam War.

That night, King delivered his now-famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ. You can listen to King's full speech from Riverside here. "We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate for our limited vision, but we must speak". King's elegant lauding of "those great wells of democracy" in his Letter from Birmingham Jail remains a touchstone in our own time. It was King's first antiwar oratory. Economic and racial injustice still blights lives and stamps out hope. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children.Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness.' Surely, he said, 'this madness must cease'.

"It is also inaccurate to say that every American in 1968 mourned King's death".

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In saying plainly that the country was wrong to be in Vietnam, King may have been out in front of mainstream opinion but he was not all by himself. A memorial service was held Tuesday for the civil rights leader in the Mahoning County Courthouse.

In spite of the fact that my article is profoundly critical of America and came out of a period of deep opposition to the Vietnam War, it has been widely interpreted as a hymn to religious nationalism, something I above all hate.

Many blasted this decision as unwise and irresponsible. Then came the victory to guarantee voting rights.

King likewise expressed the need for a more comprehensive spiritual ethos, but he was not afraid to speculate on the form it should take. Fifty seven percent of Americans believed that King and young activists were damaging their cause. Progressives pondering those words today will immediately connect them to the border wall and proposed military buildup of the Trump administration, not to mention the president's enemy-making rhetoric about immigrants and travelers from certain Middle Eastern countries. He was a man who stood up for the African American community in times of inequality. After King's assassination that April, his widow and others tried to continue this work. "On this MLK Anniversary, as we join activist Ted Hayes with the launch of A Time of Love and Reconciliation", God's Word - "Return to Me" - is resonating across the atmospheres; reaching into the darkness and awakening a heavenly fire and light that can not and will not be denied.

Though 50 years later we can hear King's words in their proper context, they must remain in the caldrons of yesteryear, lest we would be required to take action about our present state of affairs in Afghanistan.

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