January 20, 2014

Happy birthday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia . . .
(from Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, in 1963)

We honor the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) as "A Day On... Not a Day Off" this federal holiday, today. ". . . [A] drum major for justice" Dr. King galvanized us to witness America's disparity between promise and reality, and through nonviolent resistance ensure basic rights for all Americans — natives, immigrants, refugees, asylees, and guestsSince his life and assassination, and when I first published this post in 2009, we have steadily engaged in this struggle locally, nationally, globally

Fifteen miles from my home in Atlanta, Stone Mountain is the world's largest exposed mass of granite. On one side, a giant Confederate memorial carving depicts American Civil War champions of slavery — Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson, Confederacy President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee.

Following the Civil War, each Labor Day from 1915 until recent years, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) met on the mountain summit, igniting 60-foot cross-burnings to advocate and restore white supremacy. Founded in 1865 in southern USA, the national terrorist organization featuring white-robed terrorists in conical hats and masks would preach and commit violence and lynching to intimidate, murder, and oppress African Americans, Jews, and other minorities, and to intimidate and oppose Roman Catholics and labor unions.

So, when Dr. King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in a defining moment during the March on Washington, his allies in the Civil Rights Movement and others understood the context of the phrase, "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia." (Watch a video of the 17-minute speech here.)

Born into a culture poisoned by racism, economic injustice, and militarism, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called us to address these evils through nonviolent resistance. Thirty-eight years later, a crazed product of this culture assassinated the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Moses of my generation. Today, the poisons steadily erode cultures and the environment. And, nonviolent resistance continues. Everywhere.


JeSais said...

...interesting that the KKK wears masks... which to me says that they obviously know what they do is wrong.

Tamar Orvell said...

JeSais — I see these masks with a more jaundiced eye. Masked men shun the light of day, they prefer covering up who they really are — often, public servants, "religious" leaders, upstanding citizens, pillars of society. Cowards hide, dissemble; people of integrity are comfortable being transparent.

Anonymous said...

Seeing your beautiful entry on MLK and our President-elect inspires me to send you the link to the JTS website, featuring in the top right-hand corner a piece on the history of JTS, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Dr. King. I hope it continues your day of uplift (our national day of uplift, for that matter!).