Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin L. King, Jr.

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

27 comments:

wanderingmind said...

Kewl! Hang in there buddy.

Beijing York said...

Hey johnnieb! Congrats on the new blog. Great entry on MLK.

Your buddy laine :-)

Jennifer said...

WOW, Johnieb has a blog!! Nice post! I'll bookmark you! :-)

Sadie Baker said...

Did you see Mitt Romney there, too?

Just kidding. We did a march this morning, and listened to speakers tell about what things were like around here on the day King was shot. From what it sounds like, they basically declared martial law on the black community. Sent in the National Guard and everything to "keep the peace."

These were not stories I had ever heard anywhere before, and I doubt they'll be featured on CNN's coverage of the day

Ariadne said...

Wow, JohnieB--so cool

Grandmère Mimi said...

Johnie, what a lovely story. In my lifetime, I have been privileged to hear two prophets speak, (not in person) Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu. There may be others - I think of Gandhi - but I have only read his words. Thanks be to God for those two.

johnieb said...

Thanks, all y'all.

Ya know, this might get to be habit-forming.

Mimi, I gotta fix the link to yer blog; some one just let me know I needed a "the" on "Wounded Bird".

Fancy buddy, is dat beijing york you?

Paul said...

Dude, welcome to blogtopia (TM skippy the bush kangaroo). Have fun.

Thanks for sharing this.

Got ya bookmarked now.

Jane R said...

Thanks for this moving memory, bro.

Elvis Drinkmo said...

Hell yeah, Johnie B.

I'll add you to my blog and at Appalachian Greens too.

johnieb said...

Thanks, all y'all.

This may be more fun than I suspected.

Ann said...

Thanks for the moment.

pj said...

This was very moving. I think you were very lucky/blessed to see MLK in such an unguarded moment. Thanks for sharing it with us! (Even though you were only about 5 years old back then.) ;)

Now then... you wait till I go away to get yourself a bleepin' blog? Harumph. Well, welcome to blogging. It gets to feel like another job after a while.

Mike in Texas said...

Lovely memory, johnieb. Thanks for sharing it.

jerseyjo said...

Hi johnieb --

And we're still walking together holdin' hands singing about justice..

Peace and thanks,
--J

Tandaina said...

Thank you for sharing the memory.

FranIAm said...

After seeing your name in the comments at OCICBW, Grandmere's and BB's among other places, I am delighted to stop by here!

Padre Mickey said...

johnnieb gots a blog! Yay! I guess it's time to add to the blogroll once again.
Good story.

Doorman-Priest said...

Welcome aboard - what kept you?

Nina said...

I always knew you'd have great things to say.

Welcome to the crazy world of blogging. Remember to look out the window for at least 5 minutes an hour so your eyes remember to focus at at distance, and make yourself go outside at least once a day.

Nina said...

Remember HOW to focus.

johnieb said...

Thanks, Nina; your reward (??) may be found under "Good Reading".

Grandmère Mimi said...

Johnieb, I gave you a bit of free advertising, AND I added you to my blog friends list.

BooCat said...

JohnieB, This was a wonderful post. Your blog is great. I look forward to reading your posts daily.

Allie said...

Wow, thanks for sharing... and ITS ABOUT TIME you got a blog.

PseudoPiskie said...

While folks around me were condemning whites who marched, I was wishing those committed folks would march in our Ohio town. I could never understand why anyone was treated as less than equal. I could never understand why having a Negro move in next door was so terrible. The problem was with the neighbors who moved out, not the n...s.

Now I'm a little envious that you were able to march for history.

Josh Indiana said...

Excellent, johnieb!

I understand why you decided not to approach MLK, especially under those circumstances, marching, walking, trying to find a spot of shade when it's hot out. And your take-away, seeing him as human, is a gift to all of us.

But maybe what he needed most was some encouragement from a white country boy. Maybe we should always take a chance on shaking hands with greatness.