On Monday, Jan. 16, Americans will be joined by people around the world as we observe the birthday of the “Drum Major for Peace,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It may be hard to believe but a year from now, King will have been dead for 50 years — an entire generation ago. Yet, his spirit continues to live on as we press forward in our quest for justice for all Americans.
There will be marches, parades, forums and quiet reflections that will honor his memory, his sacrifices and his leadership. His sermons and speeches will be spoken by children and adults, preachers and teachers. And we will hold hands, as he once did, singing timeless spirituals that have inspired the Black community during our most troubling times.
One has to wonder what Dr. King would say about the current state of affairs if he were with us today. We often point to the early days of the Civil Rights Movement when he believed in the goodness of mankind. In those years between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington, King remained optimistic and hopeful, confident that his “Beloved Community” could be achieved through peaceful means.
King anticipated a time when our differences would not serve as a wedge that separated us but rather as a reminder that in God’s garden, even with the many diverse flowers that bloom, we are still more alike than unalike.
But then he was forced to deal with mounting examples of man’s inhumanity to man. He witnessed the devastating power and crushing impact of poverty, ignorance and prejudice. And he spoke out on issues that many Americans had tried to ignore. A more radical Martin Luther King, in the later years of his life, emerged.
He found himself wondering “where do we go from here — chaos or community?”
Perhaps he knew that the likelihood of our country moving toward a chaotic state was inevitable, unless serious changes were made. Unless “I” could be replaced with “We.”
We need a radical King today. We need a new cadre of drum majors to step forward. Some already have. And one day, we will overcome.