Tag Archives: Martin Luther King

Latest Plans for MLK Day 2017

Though we have yet to drop the crystal ball announcing the new year or to officially launch the new regime, this season more than most it seems wise to plan ahead for Martin Luther King Day, set for Monday, January 16, 2017. The message of hope that MLK shared with the world is needed at this hour.

One way to think ahead is to recall the contributions and leadership of MLK. And a way to do this is to immerse oneself in the era and to reflect on the issues is to listen to or read the words of MLK here: The I Have a Dream Speech (1963) http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm or to read the Letter from Birmingham Jail: https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/Letter_Birmingham_Jail.pdf

The story of the long struggle to establish the MLK Holiday was is a saga in itself. Many articles have been written about that history – for a brief chronology look to the MLK Center’s website: http://www.thekingcenter.org/making-king-holiday

In weeks to come schools and libraries, nonprofits, the faith and academic communities and corporations will all be announcing plans for celebrating the life, work and words of Martin Luther King.  To learn about more about local MLK Day happenings follow the website and FaceBook sponsored by the Governor’s Council on the Martin Luther King Celebration: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=state%20of%20minnesota%20governor’s%20council%20on%20the%20mlk%20day%20celebration%20photos

Because plans are in-the-making keep on clicking during the next couple of weeks.

Some activities are already well set and posted. The day begins with a Youth Rally and March beginning at the State Capitol at 9:00 on Monday, January 16. The March will lead to the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts for a program on civil rights, social justice and social consciousness.   Keynote speaker is Caroline Wanga, Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Target Corporation.

Across the river hundreds of folks will gather for the annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast. Keynote speaker this year is Myrlie Evers-Williams, a journalist and civil rights activist. Evers-Williams, who was married to murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers, chaired the NAACP from 1995-1998. She also wrote of her experience during the struggle for civil rights in several books including For Us, The Living and, Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I was Meant to Be.

The MLK Day Breakfast has been sponsored for over a quarter century by The General Mills Foundation and The United Negro College Fund. The event is carried live on TPT/Channel 2 and replayed several times during MLK Day and again on following Sundays. Check TPT for specifics.

In recent times there has been a push to promote the idea of community service as an important aspect of MLK Day. To learn more about service opportunities, check with the Corporation for National Service.

And yet, all of these are examples of what others are doing, things people can attend. The reason to post this reminder at the start of the new year is to get readers thinking about taking the initiative locally. A challenge today is to generate ideas, to engage community not only in mega-events but also in local discussions of the message of Dr. King and the history of civil rights, voting rights, human rights. The challenge is to examine how we are doing in 2017.

A wise friend made me understand many years ago that MLK is one national holiday that is devoted not to family or parades or patriotism. It is instead a day for people to gather within their own circles, to get to know each other, to plan to work together to do what needs to be done in memory of Dr. King. To honor Dr. King we reach out within our local circle to understand, to collaborate, and to create a better community. In the spirit of MLK Day we are charged share ideas and energy with neighbors, co-workers, fellow-worshipers or learners, people we don’t even know yet – to work to create a common vision of a just society that recognizes and honors the rights of all.

 

NOTE – added event:  the East Side Freedom Library will sponsor a special screening on the evening of MLK Day — a screening of the recent documentary “Love and Solidarity.” (2014)  The film explores  nonviolence and organizing through the life and teachings of Reverend James Lawson.  Lawson provided strategic guidance during his work with MLK in southern struggles for civil rights, including the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968.  Lawson continued his  work in support of nonviolent protest  in Los Angeles where he organized community and and worker coalitions that played a role in the LA labor movement of that era.

NOTE – added event:  Love Hope Rise 2017 brings energy and ideas to this community’s Martin Luther King remembrance with a Solidarity March set for Saturday, January 14. In the spirit of the community celebration sponsors extend a special welcome to families with children and first-time demonstrators.

 

Theme of the Solidarity March is the basic principle of “treating others as you want to be treated.” There will be an indoor pre-march program, sign-making on the positive values of justice dignity, equality, freedom, stewardship and peace.

Check the Facebook event page to keep up with details and developments. https://www.facebook.com/Love-Hope-Rise-2017-Coalition-421588658172703/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE

The East Side Freedom Library, co-sponsor of the March, will join the Love Hope Rise solidarity march as its regular Solidarity Saturday initiative.

 

 

November 22, 1963 – Reflections

John F. Kennedy, May 29,1917-November 22, 1963

Though the assassination of President Kennedy is ancient history to most Americans, the day lives on in history – and in my memory. I was working in Washington, DC, a short walk from the White House. I remember only too well catching the frenzied rumors out of Dallas, hearing the devastating words of Walter Cronkrite, hearing the helicopter land near the White House, joining the days-long procession of mourners passing through the Rotunda, perching in the window box at the Mayflower to get a better view of the endless walk to St. Mathews. Thanksgiving weekend 1963 was a time of unmitigated pain that has left an indelible mark on everyone who lived through the experience. That day and weekend live on in the collective memory of this nation.

I cannot let the day go by without reflecting on the grief and awareness we shared that weekend. More than a half century later the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ring true:

We were all involved in the death of John Kennedy. We tolerated hate; we tolerated the sick stimulation of violence in all walks of life; and we tolerated the differential application of law, which said that a man’s life was sacred only if we agreed with his views. This may explain the cascading grief that flooded the country in late November. We mourned a man who had become the pride of the nation, but we grieved as well for ourselves because we knew we were sick. (MLK, Why We Can’t Wait,1963)

Some resources that shed light on the John F. Kennedy and his era:

Videos that share the spirit of JFK – skip the ad –  http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/john-f-kennedy/videos

From the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum: https://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/Life-of-John-F-Kennedy.aspx

https://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/November-22-1963-Death -of-the-President.aspx

From the White House archives: https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/johnfkennedy

Dr. Martin Luther King’s Thoughts on Thinking

 

The quest began with a personal need to get back to writing for Poking Around with Mary, long abandoned when life interfered. Because I have been trying so hard to get a grip on a new job I have lacked both time and spirit to poke, much less to think, much less to write.

Knowing that it’s African American History Month I have longed for a chance to poke around the stories and resources I have gathered in better days.  My head teeming with disjointed ideas I kept trying without success to focus on that special theme or idea that might inspire me and inform others.

Today as I rifled aimlessly through the turgid backwater of paper, emails, post-its, phone messages and minutiae on my digital desk, this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King surfaced:

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking.  There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions.  Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

Dr. King’s observation that “nothing pains some people more than having to think” gave me pause.  I posed the question to myself:  Are we as a voting public, am I as a voter, complacently surrendering this democracy simply because we are pain resistant?  Do we the people settle for “easy answers and half-baked solutions?”  Worse, are we relinquishing the power of the people to forces that are only too willing to endure the fleeting pain of thinking for the long-term gain of seizing power?

The corollary lies in another of Dr. King’s prophetic quotes:

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think crtitically.  Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.  (emphasis mine)

Madison, Jefferson, Thomas Paine and others of their ilk enjoyed good educations, amassed impressive libraries, lived privileged lives that afforded them time, skills and tools to think. As men of intelligence and character, they made the most of the opportunity.  Fortunately for us, they thought through the long-term implications of their action. The took time to engage in meaningful dialog.  They weighed their options and considered the consequences of  governing, authority, checks and balances, the public accountability of the government they forged.  They underscored the big ideas, including that fundamental principle that the printing press was a protected public good essential to an informed – and thinking – citizenry.

As we all know, there were some gaps in their thinking about who was qualified to engage in the process, a topic to ponder another day.   Still, their idea of sharing the power with an informed public was both solid and challenging.   The challenge today is to think about how a diverse citizenry with a range of skills, an infinite array of resources, the communications and information tools of the day – can embrace the challenge – and set aside the time – to think.

Monday is President’s Day, originally intended to commemorate the contributions of our forbearers. The day also offers a rare opportunity for those of intelligence and character to think long and deep about how best to nurture this fragile democracy.

Dr. King adds this relevant thought:     “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

 

Exploring the Legacy of MLK in the Digital Age

Long ago I learned from my friend Marvin Roger Anderson that commemoration of the MLK birthday holiday should involve community building, connecting with friends and neighbors to share celebrate the dream.  He insisted that public libraries should throw open their doors to serve as gathering sites. MLK’s birthday, he reminded us, is the only holiday that’s not about family or gifts or escape but an occasion to experience, share and build community committed to MLK’s dream.

Those who have the day off and no home obligations might well heed Marvin’s wise counsel. There are mega-gatherings today at the Convention Center, the Minnesota History Center, the Cathedral as well as less formal events in neighborhoods, places of worship, colleges and public places.   For the homebound our community engagement can be a virtual learning adventure.

Public media do a good job of sharing their audio and video rich resources – in yesterday’s post I mentioned one of many.

Less well known are the vast digital resources to which digital age armchair learners enjoy unprecedented access.  Many of these resources are collected, preserved, digitized and shared by agencies of the federal government, the most prominent of which is the Library of Congress.  LC is digitizizing humungous collections of documents, photos, recordings, diaries, artifacts, virtually anything that helps to tell the story of this nation.  Further, the Library produces online guides to resources of a host of other collections within and outside the federal bureaucracy.

MLK Day provides a great opportunity for a digital dip into the treasures of LC.  The problem is that to dip may be to drown.  A significant problem in using digital resources is that the tidal wave is too much and the searcher washes ashore.

One approach is to start with a guide that LC created in 2010 to complement The African-American Mosaic exhibit.  Click here: (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam001.html) .  When you search under “Martin Luther King” the guide will send you to two sites:

Your learning curve has just begun.  Within LC lie countless caches of digitized history including, for example, the American Folklife Center (http://www.loc.gov/folklife/aboutafc.html) as well as the Afro-American Genealogical Research collection, the National Women’s History Project, the records of the NAACP, and the National Museum for African American History and Culture (http://nmaahc.si.edu)  still a work-in-progress set to open next year

The guide will lead you beyond the walls of the Library of Congress (not that walls matter to the armchair searcher).  The National Archives and Records Administration (http://archives.gov) is the repository of the records of the government itself.   “Celebrating MLK’s Legacy and Birthday” offers a quick glimpse of the National Archives resources on the King era – a smidgeon with links (http://blogs.archives.gov/blackhistoryblog/)

Armchair searching of the photos, videos, artifacts, posters, diaries, pamphlets – the stories — is a healthy addiction.  For some, the story of the process itself is as important as the stories that emerge from the records.  Such digital enthusiasts will enjoy this YouTube intro to digitization: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkzWN9t1alk)

With African American History Month just weeks away venturing into the MLK stories may whet the appetite for more – including, perchance, another post.  In the meantime, this just popped up on Twitter – take a minute to click, read and listen:

http://www.npr.org/2014/01/20/264226759/a-promise-unfulfilled-1962-mlk-speech-recording-is-discovered?ft=1&f=1001&utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=nprnews&utm_source=npr&utm_medium=twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections and Resources for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2014

First I was aggravated at Oliver Stone for throwing in the towel on the much-touted film on the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday.  He knew the announcement would grab the headlines and further sully the great man’s name.

Then I turned my anger to the keepers of the MLK legacy, the King family and their advisers.  Why not just admit that MLK had feet of clay that are far less relevant than his leadership of a movement that has forever restructured the political, social and cultural contours of this nation.

When I turned on the radio for my Sunday morning ritual listen to On Being I was delighted to realize that the gurus at MPR had wisely chosen to air a conversation that Krista Tippett shared some weeks ago with Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons and Lucas Johnson.  Listening to that thoughtful discussion relieved my angst and inspired reflections far more appropriate to the occasion.  Though my original intent was to share the podcast and transcript, a click on the website disclosed that the interview was actually videotaped in December in front of a live audience at National Public Radio in Washington, DC.

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, an early black power feminist, is the older of the two guests.  She well remembers blatant racism, picketing and marching, the subtleties of the leaders’ philosophies and the distortion of the facts over time.  She has written about her experience as a SNCC activist in Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC.  Today Dr. Simmons is assistant professor of religion at the University of Florida.  She is also a member of the National Council of Elders (about which I want to learn more.)

Dr. Lucas Johnson, a younger man, speaks more of the impact of the civil rights movement on him personally and on his generation.  He is Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.  His conversation revolves around the impact of the civil rights movement on current issues of peace, non-violence and reconciliation.

  • MPR has posted a short video discussion starter based on MLK’s I Have a Dream speech. View the video here:  http://vimeo.com/64079741

MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail – Reflections at 50 Years

When the hour came we lived up to our promise ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words from Birmingham Jail a half century ago.  His Letter from Birmingham Jail is a powerful reminder of how the struggle for civil rights had its start.   Those who remember King’s words and who remain vigilant in defense of the civil rights for all will observe the fiftieth anniversary of King’s Letter on April 16, 2013.

The worldwide observance will include public programs in libraries and museums, schools and universities, places of worship, work places, public parks, bookstores, coffee houses and anywhere people committed to justice and equality gather.

Observations are scheduled for dozens of sites ranging from the Apartheid Museum and the Steve Biko Foundation in Johannesburg to Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland to a host of sites in Birmingham Alabama and in cities and towns throughout the U.S.  Participating organizations, institutions, even informal gatherings are encouraged to register their participation.  At this writing no Minnesota participants are listed.

The observance is a social media event with a presence on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and other communications channels,

The global event is sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library which has posted a robust guide including links to resource materials, lesson plans, graphics participating sites and more.