Monday, January 21, 2008

PostHeaderIcon MLK Day - Observed and Observations

On this day of reflection about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., it's important (to me at least) to remember the complexity of the man, the times and the coterie of people on the stage of history -- before, during and after his most famous speech.

As pointed out in this column in today's Houston Chronicle, we cannot expect to realize King's dream if we do not remember where it was founded.

Nor do we do that dream any favor by deifying the orator without understanding the context. The man was killed because he -- and his (our) cause were not just disliked but hated. The struggle for the American soul was not an Oprah-made movie of the week where all is resolved in love and understanding.

And let us not forget, without the help and tutelage of a gay man -- namely Bayard Rustin -- King would not have had the platform to proclaim his dream... and the civil rights movement might have slipped into another bloody civil war rather than teaching the power of non-violence. Rustin was booted from the movement, despite his contributions, because King and his advisors could not afford to have an openly gay man in a position of authority.

Anti-gay animus (particularly from the pulpit of black churches) is also part of the complex legacy we still struggle with today.

About the photo: I took this photo last fall of the granite flagstone in front of the Lincoln Memorial where MLK delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech as part of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

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