I can recall when schools were open on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and a quick announcement over the intercom sufficed for information given about him.
I’ll be the first to admit that “we’ve” come a long way in the area of equity and acceptance for black people in this country, but am also soured to have to admit, it seems we still have quite a bit more journeying to do.
I want to be transparent.
For all of the years Black History Month and a few black people whose contribution to our society and the people of America have been sanitized and put on repeat, I’ve not gone as deeply into the history and understanding of King and his life. I mean, well deeper than many, but not as deep as I could.
I got stuck when I learned that he was not the idol or image of perfection that I think we can sometimes offer to people looking for a leader, a change agent. It was at a time that I learned that someone I dearly loved had stepped into a similar moral failure and I was just hurt. It shut my heart away from hearing King’s words and virtually denouncing his efforts because of that one thing. (Can you understand why one of my words this year is ‘grace’?)
Over the years, I’ve struggled to determine or declare what King’s contributions mean to me. And I suspect I’m not the only one. Last week, I asked the question, “How have the efforts of the Kings influenced your life” and only got two responses. Maybe people are doing their lives, perhaps the Instagram algorithm changed (again) or it could just be that this is a difficult question to answer.
How could it not be?
When I myself have wrestled with burying my blackness in favor of fitting in with those around me. Or when I’ve judged those who are seemingly aggressive about being heard and taut those who could be great allies. And well, it’s just messy.
We bring our humanness, upbringing, and experiences to the conversation as well as the fear of not having enough if everyone gets what they need and the scales that measure justice remain unbalanced.
Mister and I listened to Dr. King’s sermon, “A Knock at Midnight” on the record player. It’s an album my parents gave me and I couldn’t help but get emotional thinking of them listening to it from afar and realizing how very many things he said apply to how we’re living today. A pastor, King’s words speak to my faith as he addresses matters happening in society, referring to the Vietnam War and the “race problem” of the day by taking Mt. Zion Church back to the words of Jesus.
I so appreciate that y’all.
This man, who in that sermon, shared that he was worried under the threats against his life, continued to speak out boldly, preaching the Good News of Jesus: love.
You can go to so many posts on social media today (and some during Black History Month – don’t get me started) to see so many quotes about justice, overcoming fear, taking bold steps and unity, but very few posts will share about King’s affinity for the Word of God and his love of and trust in Jesus.
It so warmed and convicted my heart.
Later today, I’m heading to my public library to grab a bunch of books about the Kings and hope to expand my understanding of them and their contributions beyond what I already think I know.