Young, Shiftless, & Black & 3 Little Words.

Day 4 of #ThirtyDaysOfEssays. I write this in rememberance of The King. Enjoy!

On April 4th 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. cemented his status as a figurative (and literal) Enemy of the State when he denounced The United States’ participation in the Vietnam War. One year later, on April 4th, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. King was shot in the face. The force of the bullet blew the necktie off of his body and he died just one hour later. Now, 49 years after that infamous evening in Memphis, the spirit of Martin Luther King’s words have more significance now than at any other point in modern American history.

I Had A Dream?

Of all of King’s speeches, of all of the great lines and passages he left scholars, students, and historicans to decipher, poke and prod over, there is one speech that resonates with me more than any of his writings or any speech. I bet I know what you’re thinking: “I Have A Dream,” right? I mean after all, it’s probably the most {mis}-quoted and {mis}-interpreted speech of the 20th century. For over 50 years, well-meaning yet woefully ignorant people of every race tout out King’s dream as perhaps his best body of work.

Me? Nah.

I mean don’t get me wrong. It was a dope speech. It is a dope speech. But, personally that particular speech does not move me. Beyond the fact that I just don’t care for King’s specific vision of a post-racial America, I find the “Dream” speech to be the most egregious claim that white folks use to tout King’s work and worst: as justification to denounce violence inflicted and specifically directed at people of color. Dr. King literally read America for filth and called her on her BS for damn near 15 minutes straight. Yet, most white people hold up the few minutes he engaged in recounting an experience that only existed in his mind while he slept (Let that sink in).

It’s a great speech, but it does not accurately depict Martin Luther King — the radical Black revolutionary whose arsenal of public campaigns, speeches, writing, organizing, fundraising, and policy making will probably cement him in history as one of the greatest political minds ever. I’m going to say that again for the people in the back: Martin Luther King, Jr will be remembered as one of the greatest political minds in history. Dr. King had an uncanny ability to articulate the needs and desires of his people while loving an enemy that routinely threatened his life and the life of his children, bombed his home, and ultimately put a bullet in his jaw that shattered it and severed 3 vertibrae in his spinal cord. White supremacy murdered King and highjacked his legacy and in return, Black people got a Monday in January and his name on a street running through the most economically-deprived Black neighborhoods in the nation (When is the last time you saw MLK Drive in a white neighborhood? You didn’t ).

3 Little Words

In a speech originally given in Detroit at Aretha Franklin’s father’s church, Martin Luther King stood in front of the congregation and told them of 3 little words that summed up how Black people felt: All, Here, and Now. King proclaimed that Black folks didn’t want some of our rights, we but we wanted all of them. King reminded those in the congregation that Black folks did not have to “go back to Africa” or leave Alabama and Mississippi for their rights; we wanted all of our rights and we wanted them “here in Alabama and Mississippi!” King’s point was Black folks did not and should not have to leave any part of the country to have access to what was guaranteed to them in the first place. King rounded out the speech with the proclamation that Black folks were not interested in waiting for our rights; we wanted our rights and we wanted them now.

“So Martin, how do you feel about white supremacy and those who uphold it?”

This was the real Martin Luther King; a man who literally gave his last breath fighting for a people who more often times than not, have allowed his legacy to fall into the hands of the very forces that ended his life. In remembering King today, 49 years after his murder, We must remember the conditions that made King were the conditions that killed him. Dr. King’s death should be remembered as the day America said “No” to those 3 little words. Nearly half a century later, Black folks must not only reclaim the radical image of Martin Luther King, but we must keep his sentiments alive. Now more than ever, those 3 little words don’t seem so “little” anymore.

It’s less that 3:00 minutes. Get into it!

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