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Posts Tagged ‘dr. martin luther king’

As I have grown older and witnessed the vast inequities in our world, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become a hero of mine, the voice in my subconscious always urging love, tolerance, peace, nonviolence, and diversity. I have written before on the inspiration that Dr. King has given me in my personal life but today I write about the inspiration that I pray every day he will give to all corners of our society.

On the great day in which he delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, he was speaking specifically on the topic of the racial crisis facing this country. But when Dr. King speaks of rights, promisory notes, and dreams of equality, he was not only talking about equality for black and white but also men and women, gay and straight, rich and poor, young and old, Christian and Muslim. His words painted a canvas of freedom and justice – and almost 50 years later, while we have made amazing progress, that painting is still unfinished.

I am always amazed when I hear Dr. King speak of his hope for a world where blacks and whites can eat together at the same table. Considering that I was married to a black man (and I’m so white, I’m neon), the world has come a long way! In Dr. King’s time, in some areas of the country, I would have been arrested (or worse!) for being with a black man – nowadays it’s not so uncommon and certainly not prosecutable. So many of my friends are of different colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds that it makes the violent and disciminatory realities of Dr. King’s world seem unbelievable. Our world is so much more diverse and tolerant than I’m sure anyone of that era could have ever imagined. And yet, even the most idealistic and naive amongst us can see that there is still progress to be made. There are still inequalities in this world to be solved, injustices to be made right, and discrimination to be overcome.

I, too, have a dream that someday this world will be full of people who treat each other with love, kindness, and fairness. I have a dream that someday physical attributes will not be the ruler by which people are measured – that someday, we will consider ‘pretty’ to be in someone’s soul. I have a dream that skin color, economic status, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation will not be factors in how we judge people – that we will love them regardless of these factors and be influenced only by ‘the contents of their characters’. Dr. King has taught me a lot about the kind of person I want to be and I am sure that I will continue to learn from his words and his actions.

So, I invite you all, on today of all days, to take some time out of your life to view the video of this great orator from August 28, 1963 – and maybe say a prayer for peace and equality and love in the world.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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With great admiration for Patty Griffin – “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)”:

I went up to the mountain / Because you asked me to

Up over the clouds / To where the sky was blue

I could see all around me everywhere / I could see all around me everywhere

Sometimes I feel like I’ve never been nothing but tired / And I’ll be walking till the day I expire

Sometimes I lay down, no more can I do / But then I go on again because you ask me to

Some days I look down afraid I will fall / And though the sun shines I see nothing at all

Then I hear your sweet voice, oh Oh / Come and then go, come and then go

Telling me softly / You love me so

The peaceful valley / Just over the mountain

The peaceful valley few come to know / I may never get there

Ever in this lifetime / But sooner or later It’s there I will go

Sooner or later It’s there I will go

This is an amazing song! Patty Griffin is a folk/country/gospel singer that has been a part of Lillith Fair and countless other major music festivals – and she’s actually the magical pen behind a LARGE number of famous songs from The Dixie Chicks, Bette Midler, Jessica Simpson, Linda Ronstadt, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert and many others.

This particular song was inspired by Dr. King’s last speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop“, given the night before he was assasinated, in which he talked of climbing the mountain, making your way through a difficult path in order to

"I've Been to the Mountaintop" - April 3, 1968 - Memphis, TN

 reach the summit, to succeed at your goals and see the promised land.

What amazes me most about that moment in history – and about this song in tribute to it – is the sheer hope that it conveys! The inspiring message to carry on, to battle through and succeed, to keep pushing for those things that are important – it practically vibrates out of the song and off of the page. Dr. King, knowing the dangers he faced in fighting for civil rights for ALL PEOPLE, said that night:

“The nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars…We are going on. We need all of you…either we go up together or we go down together.”

In the spirit of We Shall Overcome and There’s A Bright Side Somewhere, this song’s lyrics are reminiscent of a very dark period in American history, a time when the country was divided and people were being chased down by dogs, hosed down with high-power hoses, arrested and beaten, imprisoned and assasinated while the world watched. The Civil Rights era is a fascinating and troubling period – and yet I can’t help but be inspired by those exact same struggles. It certainly puts my day-to-day troubles into perspective, that’s for sure. And, if Dr. King was convinced that, no matter how dark the night, the stars will shine, I am going to believe him and take inspiration and faith from him.

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