No borrowed images nor video downloads this time, just an attempt to paint in words a memory of King.
It was the last of the great Southern Civil Rights marches--Early Summer, 1966-- past their effectiveness, I believe. SNCC was introducing the slogan "Black Power" and the clenched fist, which revealed the complexity of the struggle for justice. The great Civil Rights Bills had been passed into federal law the year before.
We had driven from Little Rock, then several of us decided to drive north from Jackson Mississippi, to join the march as it made its way South on the main highway. We adapted quickly to march life: all kinds of people in casual clothes--tens of thousands--walking, talking, drinking water or soft drinks, pausing as a small group to begin a freedom song or a march chant; it was an enchanted place.
Sometime that late hot afternoon, I noticed people also would move off the road to a shady clearing, to rest and talk. I was noticing this happen yet again when I realized one of them, in a open sport shirt and slacks, and a sporty straw hat, had a face the world knew, but few had seen in person: King.
He was with a few others, as I suppose he almost always was by then, though I don't remember noticing if it was Ralph Abernathy or Andy Young, or even Stokely Carmichael.
King was sitting on the grass, knees drawn up and resting his arms on them. He looked, from maybe thirty feet away, to be hot, tired and wondering "What am I doing this for?": a very human look. I wanted to go introduce myself, shake the famous hand, and offer thanks and praise from a poor white country boy, but thought he might well appreciate an unguarded moment for himself, in the midst of the conflagration, so I did not.
There were other famous people around that weekend--Marlon Brando paying for his breakfast at the motel coffee shop in Jackson Sunday morning was one, but I don't remember them much. I do cherish the memory of seeing Dr. King as simply another human being, a child of Godde, in our midst: just like us.
Saint? Great teacher and American Prophet? The Greatest American? The last may be open to discussion, perhaps, though it is my view. A light to lead all people to justice, despite his failings (Yes, he had them , as we all do).
Living Spirit of justice,
we praise you and thank you
for the example of your servant Martin
and long to see the Promised Land
of your justice for all people