“NOW WE MUST KIND OF REDISTRIBUTE THE PAIN”
When Martin Luther King, Jr arrived at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tennessee to speak to the concerns of Memphis Sanitation Strikers (NPR, 2008), according to a GallUp Poll taken in 1966 found by Newport (2006), King had a 32% positive and 63% negative rating (there was no poll taken on King in 1967 or 1968). However, three years earlier, King had 41% positive and 37% negative rating(Newport, 2008). Today, Newport (2008) found that “ at the end of the 20th century, King was one of Americans’ most admired individuals, garnering as much respect as John F. Kennedy and Albert Einstein (p. 1)” Is there anything that Descendants of slaves must champion from King’s final speech in 2017?
When King arrived, to speak to the mostly Black Memphis Sanitation Workers who were on strike, following the death of two Black sanitation workers and 22 Black workers being sent home without pay, while the white workers were retained and paid (Archives, 2017), according to Archives (2017) “ more than 1,100 of a possible 1,300 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition (Archives, 2017 p. 2)” King delivered a message of “unity, economic actions, boycotts, and nonviolent protest, while challenging the United States to live up to its ideals (New Haven Register, 2013 p. 1)” At the sametime, King was organizing his Poor People’s Campaign for economic opportunity and equality (Archives, 2017). The Memphis Strike began February 12, 1968 and culminated on April 4, 1968 (Archives, 2012). However, on March 28, 1968, frustration boiled over, coming from students, who used their protest signs “ to break windows of businesses (Archives, 2017 p. 2)” and “ looting ensued and the march was halted (Archives, 2017 p. 2),” leaving “about 60 people had been injured, and one young man, a looter, was killed (Archives, 2017 p. 2).”
Amid frustration,violence, having been blocked to continue the march by the U.S District Court Judge, later working out a broad agreement to continue resulting from the March 28th incident, King gathered this energy into Mason Temple Church of God in Christ. Since, our release from bondage, freedman understood, that the freedman could not hope to attain the American Dream,without economic equality (Hine et al, 2000). In 1968, King echoed this understanding and descendants of slaves must echo this understanding again, under the era of the Trump Administration. According to AFSCME (2017) found that King said what is called I’ve Been To The Mountaintop; “ Go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy — what is the other bread? Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain (p. 3).” In essence, King calls for boycotting white goods in a nonviolent fashion, while the individual descendant of slaves is poor, however together we are economically strong. Further, descendants of slaves must stop supporting racist groups and organizations and instead support Black Businesses. Lastly, King acknowledges that industries may not listen to individual protests, however failure to listen would result in being driven out of business due to lack of purchase from such stores.
As we observe the 49th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s Assassination, let us remember a few points. First, like King’s unpopularity in 1968, it is time that descendants of slaves do things that are unpopular to white folk, as to drive them out of their comfortable and privileged spaces. It is time that descendants of slaves REDISTRIBUTE THE PAIN, to white folk, as to share in this economic terrorism that we have been experiencing since our Emancipation over 150 years ago. To do this, descendants of slaves must understand their collective conditions at the local level, which will mean reading the data about the community that you live in because this will tell you the truth about those around you. Then, descendants of slaves must read the data about our national condition, which will mean reading the data about our conditions across many areas. We must discontinue supporting those, who continue to not do right by us. This is the best way that we can honor both Martin Luther King and our ancestors going forward into the 21st century. Failure to do this will mean, that poor and working class descendants of slaves will become a permanent underclass in the richest nation on earth. What a shame this would be because we built this nation, being here longer than most immigrant white groups coming out of Western Europe, in truth, we are founders of this nation, we call the United States of America. Now, will you as Frederick Douglass is rumored to have said upon his death in 1895, “agitate, agitate, agitate (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2017).”
Take 43:07 minutes to rediscover, think about, critique, and use what you can from this speech to allow your community “to strive” complete with civic engagement from local, to State, to Federal levels.