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Happy birthday, Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 78 today. Below is the complete I Have a Dream  speech, given August 28, 1963 at The March on Washington (You can read it here.).

An early draft of the speech, along with hundreds of other King papers go on display at Atlanta History Center today.

Yolanda King, one of the daughters Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, said this at a ceremony yesterday.

“We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other,” Yolanda King said during a presentation Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church that was part motivational speech, part drama.

King, 51, told The Associated Press the King holiday provides an opportunity for everyone to live her father’s dream, and that she has her mother’s example to follow.

“I connected with her spirit so strongly,” Yolanda King said when asked how she is coping with her mother’s loss. “I am in direct contact with her spirit, and that has given me so much peace and so much strength.”

It’s tragic  that her sister, Bernice King, has chosen not to support equality for all.

If you want to see how far we still need to go in this country, you need to look no further than the comments on the YouTube page for this video. Or check out this earlier post of mine,  This is the Republican base, in which the funeral of Coretta Scott King last year drew out the worst imaginable commentary by the fringe.

There is so much that can be said about the accomplishments of the man, the effect that he had on society, and the wisdom that rings true today, for any and all groups that strive for civil equality. The brilliance and candor of Dr. King can be seen in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail .

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant ‘Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

…How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal .law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

How strong and uplifting those words are. It is almost tragic, in light of the legacy of Dr. King (and his wife Coretta, who was a supporter of gay civil equality) that too many current, self-appointed black leaders today feel these powerful principles should be denied to LGBT citizens. For instance, shame on Dr. Walter Fauntroy and Niger Innis (Congress of Racial Equality), who serve on the board of the bigoted Alliance for Marriage.

The man who organized the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin — one of Dr. King’s closest confidantes —  was an out gay black man. Do today’s black leaders feel that the Rustin, if he were alive today, should not be able marry, should fear being fired from a job because he was gay? The man who worked with Dr. King to form Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), should have remained a second-class citizen because of his orientation?

There are those in the black community that have risen to the challenge and continue working for equality for all. Julian Bond is a leader who is unafraid to declare an inclusive definition of civil rights.

What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. make of the schism in the black community today over LGBT rights? Jack O’Dell, former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activist and aide to Dr. King, said that Martin Luther King would have fully supported civil marriage for gays and lesbians back in 2005. (WTimes):

Speaking of King’s “Christian commitment to a socially conscious democracy,” former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activist Jack O’Dell asked, “Why would he exclude people because of their sexual preference?”

The homosexual rights movement is “another dimension of the struggle for human rights,” Mr. O’Dell said at an annual observance of King’s birth, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Related:
The activism of Rosa Parks and Bernice King
Blacks and gay civil rights
A towering figure is gone

***

Harlem (Dream Deferred)

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

— Langston Hughes

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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