By Marcinho Savant, Staff Writer
On #MLKDay, I eagerly listened to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech from his visit to Shreveport. He came to speak at Galilee Baptist on August 14th, 1958. I was, yet, unborn. The hour long speech, at which Shreveporter, and SunScriber, Dr. C.O. Simpkins was present, was transformative for me. Such an erudite, intellectual, master speaker, and man of the cloth, he captured my attention from the moment he began.
Dr. King, a mere 29 years of age, spoke with such conviction, vision, faith, and fire. Even in his pianissimo moments, I clung to his every word. I think it was a masterpiece, even as it foreshadowed events of his personal terror, and his sacrifices as the “moral leader of the civil rights movement”. A diamond in the rough, which finally came to fruition in his final, epic, “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” oration.
Filled by his words, and his unstoppable hope, I lingered at my computer--- tempted to play the video again, but knowing that I had multiple deadlines to meet today. Now, as one of those deadlines approaches, I feel numb. Defeated. Saddened. Have we given up on his dream for all of us?
Our youth still refuse to pull up their damned pants. Our girls and young women give their preciousness away too easily. Too often. To too many different men. Our youth barely feel the hopeful fire which inspired a movement for equality, so they rest on their “as-is”, instead of fighting for the golden ring. Instead, they fight each other. Over nonsense. Often they die.
I know it is not all of our youth. I profiled some astounding Shreveport young people in our pages, and on our website.
We self-segregate from that vision of Dr. King’s wherein he speaks, in part: “I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”
We corral ourselves into our own little enclaves, lacking sociological imagination, and without hope that King’s larger dream includes us. We settle. Meddle. Stir. Gossip. Bad-mouth. Lie-on one another. Hate on those fighting to get to that mountaintop! While we begrudge and slander them--- even though they are trying.
We drinks our “likkah”... To the point of incapacitation, but have the nerve to be proud that we are in the pews on Sunday... Knowing how we’ve been living left of the Lord all week long. We scream “keep it at 100”, at every opportunity, yet we don’t care enough to fight for that hundred on a report card, or GPA.
Is this the dream Dr. King had for us? In his “THE POWER OF NONVIOLENCE” speech (1957) he prayed, “God grant that as men and women all over the world struggle against evil systems they will struggle with love in their hearts, with understanding good will. Agape says you must go on with wise restraint and calm reasonableness but you must keep moving.
“We have a great opportunity in America to build here a great nation, a nation where all men live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of all human personality. We must keep moving toward that goal. . .
“We must continue to move on. Our self-respect is at stake; the prestige of our nation is at stake. Civil rights is an eternal moral issue which may well determine the destiny of our civilization in the ideological struggle with communism. We must keep moving with wise restraint and love and with proper discipline and dignity.”
“We must keep moving with wise restraint and love and with proper discipline and dignity.” I agree. We must. Some of us do, and we watch as our spiritual siblings slip, and slide. Only, what would Dr. King think of how we now live? How we speak to one another. How we dress, and comport ourselves in public? How we bully, fight lie, cheat, and steal with impunity.
“The man won’t give me a job! He won’t let me be late! HE don’t like me ‘cause I’m BLACK!” This may all be TRUE! But what he cannot do, is stop you from opening up a BOOK! Take a moment to look around you, and see all the others who pressed on, and weren’t “studyin’ bout da man”. “The Man” is an excuse. A convenient one at that.
“The man won’t give me a job! He won’t let me be late! HE don’t like me ‘cause I’m BLACK!” This may all be TRUE! But what he cannot do, is stop you from opening up a BOOK!
There are glorious examples all around us, embodied by Mayors, and Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, Pastors, Prophets, Doctors, Surgeons, Restaurateurs, Entrepreneurs... The examples dwell within our city limits--- and have done for generations in Shreveport. The founder of this paper was only one such example.
I’m not knocking my people. I love my people. I am my people. Today I continue to weep for my people (who are my family in Christ), and for the dream of an architect whose shining city lies, in large part, in ruins.Where have we failed him? Are we too far gone? Are we lost forever?
As I sit at my keyboard writing this, the heat blows a-blast. My body is warm. My heart is chilled, carrying the body-bag of so many of King’s dreams--- yet unfulfilled. The price Dr. King paid is the highest one anyone could. Can’t we do better? Shouldn’t we? Mustn’t we? Close enough, is not good enough.
Today, I’m numb, and cold. But I never stop believing that we will restore ourselves to the Kings, and Queens, of our legacy. It is in that spirit of love, that I maintain hope for us all to honor, not ignore, King’s dream for us all.