I can’t let this day pass without saying something about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr!
In the Decisive Decade (the 1960s), Black leader after Black leader was assassinated, but this is the assassination that made it into my 7-year-old consciousness. I felt the pain through the adults, through a form of osmosis, and the collective unconscious. Then, I didn’t understand the ramifications of King’s assassination, but I knew that the world had changed for the worst – it was a seismic shift in the universe. It was then that I remembered the refrain from my youth: “They (white folk, of course), killed another good Black man.” Now I understood it.
If you ever wonder why a good Black man is hard to find, look at the Decisive Decade and its legacy. The assassination of Dr. King, and so many Black leaders, left a void that we haven’t been able to fill. When my father wouldn’t take me on his annual trip down South around the Fourth of July, I didn’t know that the world wasn’t even safe for a 7-year-old Black Boy. My father knew that he had to return to his ancestral roots, but that he would not take his first-born son, because he couldn’t protect me from the malevolence in Southern air.
Benjamin Mays, President of Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater, gave his eulogy. The two had an agreement that whoever passed first, then the other would give the eulogy. Dr. Mays didn’t think that he, a much older man, would give Dr. King’s eulogy. But as “fate” would have it, and the assassin’s bullet, Dr. Mays gave Dr. King’s eulogy. It is such a heartfelt eulogy. One thing, though, resonates with me. Dr. Mays said that no one is ahead of his time. We find ourselves at a particular time and place in history, and we either respond, or we don’t. Frantz Fanon wrote that each generation must find its calling, fulfill or betray it.
We know that people in the Movement were betrayed by their own. It seems to be part of the human condition. When Machiavelli advises the Prince that it is better to be feared than loved, he only states this because his belief system was that man could not be trusted, and that love would be betrayed quicker than fear.
In the final analysis, we know that Dr. King loved us, and he gave his life for us. I will forever be haunted by that refrain: “They killed another good Black man.”