Today, January 18, 2016 is Martin Luther King Day in America. A federal holiday falling on the Monday closest to January 15, the day MLK was born in 1929. MLK was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Establishing MLK Day wasn’t easy – a 1979 vote by the House of Representatives – defeated by 5 votes. In 1980/81, six million signatures supporting MLK Day were collected on a petition to Congress – deemed “the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history”. Republican Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East from North Carolina led the opposition. Helms orchestrated a filibuster against the bill in 1983, producing a 300 page document alleging King associated with communists. New York Senator Patrick Moynihan threw it on the Senate floor, declaring it a “packet of filth” as he stomped on it. On November 2, 1983 president Ronald Reagan set aside initial opposition, signing a bill which passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 338 to 90. The first official MLK Day was January 20, 1986. Not all States jumped on board, see link below.
As a little girl I remember chanting “eeny meeny miney mo, catch a n****r by the toe”, it was the early sixties, I was 3 or 4 and hadn’t the slightest concept of what it meant. Somewhere along the way the “N” word became “Tiger” – I can’t recall an explanation, all I knew was we had to decide whose turn it was to go first, so tiger it was. There wasn’t a hateful bone in my body; my family – decent hard working people who never spoke ill of anyone. It wasn’t the deep south, this was rural Canada in 1963 – parents passing along rhymes they learned as children – nary a thought to meaning.
I believe that “Tiger” was Martin Luther King Jr. August 28, 1963, close to a quarter million people marched on Washington, D.C. Gathered at the Washington Monument, Martin Luther King delivered his iconic I Have a Dream speech. Powerful, articulate, compelling, pivotal – I can’t think of words that do justice to this moment in history.
MLK was a proud American; a man who asked only that people uphold the American constitution, the promise of emancipation, the pursuit of life, liberty and freedom for all citizens. He calls for tolerance, understanding, and peace. He asks that the black community forgive white America and proceed in a spirit of understanding. If you do nothing else today – take a few minutes – click below, listen to the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Listen, then ask yourself what you’re afraid of. Ask yourself what good it does to sabotage every move the Obama administration makes. Ask yourself if a “tiger” is just as capable of settling things. Ask yourself why you’re filled with contempt, ask yourself to snap out of the past, think for yourselves. Stop being afraid. Ask yourself if America is worth fighting for.