Published August 02, 2013
Editor's note: Due to an editing error, the original version of the following op-ed incorrectly characterized Trayvon Martin's death as a "murder." A Florida jury ruled that George Zimmerman did not murder Trayvon Martin.
On August 28, Americans will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famous "March on Washington."
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered one of the most dramatic speeches of his lifetime. His "I Have A Dream" speech before 200,000 gathered on the Washington Mall was emotionally stirring, intellectually insightful, and spiritually enlightening.
Dr. King, a dedicated Baptist minister with brilliant oratory skills, the academic prowess of a scholar, and the wisdom of an ancient sage, faithfully and courageously challenged America to embrace his dream of a better, stronger and united America.
King dreamed of a day that black children and white children would live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
He made an earnest appeal to all men and women from all faiths, nationalities and ethnicity to embrace freedom and justice for all.
If Dr. King were alive today, he would be 84. What kind of America would he see?
How would he respond to the heated racial debate in the land stemming from the death of Trayvon Martin and the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial?
What would he do to address the black on black crime in our cities?
What would King say about the racial disparities in health, education, employment and incarceration?
What would King say about the role of the Church in all of this?
Based on the speeches, essays, letters and books that Dr. King has written, I believe today he would take note of the various extreme points of view being discussed in today's public square
He would listen to people agitate, bloviate, instigate and aggravate. Then he would seek to elevate, motivate and demonstrate God's view for healing the painful wounds of the past and bridge the deep divide with the bonds of reconciliation.
In 1963, as he sat in a Birmingham jail, he wrote about becoming an extremist to deal with the extreme issues of hate and division.
He advised Americans to become more like Jesus as an extremist in love -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them who despitefully use you."
King posed a question to all Americans; should we become extremists of hate or extremists of love?
In terms of education, Dr. King would continue to strongly encourage African-Americans to view education as the gateway out of poverty.
King applauded the constant streams of African-mericans who were completing college. But today, he would be concerned about the rising trend towards illiteracy in the black community.
Dr. Howard Fuller, co-founder of the faith-based Black Alliance for Educational Options poignantly put it this way: "On February 6, 1960, four black students from North Carolina A&T College go to a segregated lunch counter at Woolworths in Greensboro and demand to be served. Today in 2013, four black students who are now welcome at the lunch counter sit down and can't read the menu. How does that happen?"
Fuller, who drew inspiration from his parents and Dr. King to seek an education and rise from the housing projects of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to eventually become the city's first Black Superintendent of Schools believes King would be disappointed by the state of education in the black community.
Indeed, in his address to the Golden Anniversary Conference of the National Urban League in 1960, King sighted the steady decline of crippling illiteracy as a major factor in the rapid educational advances among blacks.
He believed education, along with faith in God, and a non-violent struggle against oppression would broaden the thinking of black Americans, provide a larger view of the world, but also a larger view of themselves. Sadly, some of us have taken our eyes off the prize.
Dr. King would be troubled by the current and disturbing trends of violence in the black community.
He would be heartbroken to see the alarming rate of black on black violence in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and other urban areas. He would likely conduct peace marches through the heart of these killing fields.
He would challenge all Americans; but particularly blacks to do something about the violence; to increase the peace on the streets in urban America.
In an article he wrote for Ebony magazine in 1966 titled "Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom in 1966, King sounded the alarm that it is a moral imperative to be non-violent: "Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chains of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear. Our goal is to create a beloved community."
As King addressed the issues of his time and promoted a society of brotherhood, he wanted to avoid being looked upon as a super and unrealistic optimist in an age of cynicism and pessimism.
He wrote on page 64 of his book, "Struggle to Love": As we struggle to defeat the forces of evil, the God of the universe struggles with us. Evil dies on the seashore, not merely because of man's endless struggle against it, but because of God's power to defeat it."
Dr. King did, and still does, encourage all of us to come to the table of brotherhood, to discuss our differences openly and honestly, to work and pray for a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Dr. King would remind us that in everything we do, we must act in love. Not in some sort of sentimental love.
He explained it would be difficult for men to love their enemies or oppressors in an affectionate sense. Because of that, he pushed the concept of Agape love. He explained that Agape love is not sentimental or affectionate, but is a reciprocal love.
A person will love out of a redeeming good will for mankind. It is the kind of sacrificial love that seeks nothing in return.
King wrote in "Facing The Challenge of A New Age," ...on the Agape level we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but because God loves us. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does...we will be able to stand...with dignity and discipline."
As a child, I recall being excited to hear Dr. King speak. His words resonated with the same hopeful message that I received from June, my single parent mother.
Their words spoke promise into my soul. They made me feel that if I maintained my faith in God, gained knowledge of the world through a good education, plus worked hard in my career, and then I could accomplish anything.
My mother fervently believed that. She frequently used the words of Dr. King, the Bible, and her own wisdom to help me along my rocky journey to manhood.
One quote from Dr. King that my mother often shared with me is something we should all consider living by, "If I can help somebody as I travel on, if I can help somebody with a word or a song, If I can help somebody who is traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain."
Now is the time to help somebody. Now is the time to follow in King’s footsteps and become drum majors for peace. Now is the time for us to “live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”