THE NARRATIVE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
As we move from February to March, we move from the cold of the winter to the promise of a rejuvenating spring. We move ever further away from the history of the past year and plant our feet firmly in to the optimistic future of the new calendar. We also make a unique transition from an ultra focus on Black History to a finer appreciation of Women’s History. Although accidental, our group’s choice of #BooksoftheMonth for February and March and my personal reading choice in between seem fitting and inspirational at the same time.
Our February #BookoftheMonth, which I will review later in this article, talks greatly about the history, struggles and future labor of the Black community. The adjacent April #BookoftheMonth is the autobiography “Assata” by Assata Shakur, which highlights the power and resilience of Black women specifically during the 1960s and 1970s.
These two works are so important because they both highlight the importance of holistic strategies, infrastructure and programs that not only advocate for the needs of the initial group (eg. Black community) but stress we consider and fight against other oppressive norms as well (eg. sexism, colorism, economic classism, sexual identity oppression.) And to cement this point the book I read in the middle brought the intersectionality point home: “Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement” by the powerful Angela Y. Davis. (Side Note: I will have the amazing opportunity to see her speak this month at the University of Virginia.)
In the book, Dr. King detailed his most intimate thoughts and previously unknown conversations (personal). He was so much more than the preacher we were exposed to in the “I Have A Dream Speech”; he was also the revolutionary of the “Birmingham Jail Letter” where he proclaimed
…an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.
Dr. King looked to push the envelope on human rights and knock complacent White liberals and middle-income Blacks, to name a few, into action. He looked to stress the difficulty of the next phases of the fight as we transitioned from Civil rights (eg. right to vote, attend quality schools) to Human rights (eg. access to homeownership, a quality wage).
What I found most enlightening was the attempts at cooperation and understanding between intellectuals such as Kwame Ture (King referred to his birth name Stokely Carmichael in the book) and Malcolm X. This immediately brought me to the rift between two current age intellectuals, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornel West, and how I wish we didn’t live in the age of instant communication and the required reaction to the former.
I wish these intellectuals and others today would see that the public “fighting” whether on a debatable subjects or not could have ramifications of the revolutionary spirit if the debate veers to a personal rather than a philosophical discourse.
MY REVIEW OF “WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?”
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? is a powerful look into the mind of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he nears the end of his life. Clearly by this point in his life (1967) he had seen and been a part of so much. His work, although normally portrayed as a sole leader inspiring a group, was the summation of the theologies, inspirations, actions and writings of poets and activists, preachers and day workers, the young and the experienced.
This book provided a small but important glimpse into some of the programs and infrastructure that those who were fighting in the same fight as King deployed to make the gains they attained successful in the short and long-term. I have always been impressed and inspired by large social strategies and programs such as the Black Panther’s 10-Point Program but learned, as a result of reading this book, about smaller but nonetheless powerful programs such as Operation Breadbasket.
The ultimate power in this book is the fact that it’s not some ancient, out of date script rather it’s a manuscript describing the spirit, actions, programs and perseverance needed to fight for the human rights for all; not just black or white but all races, creeds and sexes (yes King worked with and admired many of what would be known now as the LGBTQ community).
When I started reading this book, I was so angry at the way our community is perceived, ignored and attacked. This book helped rejuvenate hope in our actions not because it will be easy but the souls of those who fight for the weak, the disenfranchised, the enslaved and the impoverished are enough to bring the realization of universal humanity.
My Recommendation: “Where Do We Go From Here?” is required reading for any self identified human fighting for the sake of humanity.