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Archive for the ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’ Category

 

This morning, Sunday January 14th, I co-led a Unitarian Universalist special service with Tim Styer (check this place tomorrow for his video and his words) to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. I talked about my sojourn to The King Center in Atlanta and read from my recently completed manuscript Art, a novel of revolution, love and marriage.

You can see my talk below on the YouTube video or read the reflection below that.

 

 

About seven years ago, I took a trip to Atlanta.  I was always curious about Atlanta and so when I had an invitation to read at an LGBT writing conference there, I jumped at the opportunity.

I took some time during and after the conference, to tour the city.  On one of my sojourns, I walked through North East Atlanta (since mass transit had been cut back) and went to The King Center on Auburn Avenue.  The King Center is run by the King family and was founded in 1968 by Coretta Scott King.

Coretta Scott King is someone that I have long admired as a civil rights icon in her own right.

I entered the King Center to find a long and bright blue memorial reflecting pond above which — on a riser — sit the separate but merged sarcophagi of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King.

As the sun beat down on me, I thought “he was so young.” He was only 39 when he was murdered.  As a student of mine recently said, what if Martin Luther King, Jr., had lived a normal life span, can you imagine what he would have gone on to do?

Can you imagine what kind of world we would be living in?

Probably, not this one.

At the King Center, I spent a long time examining the documentation of the friendship between Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.  King visited Ghandi in 1959. King was inspired by Gandhi because he had used non violent means to get the British empire out.

MLK quote two

Then I went across the street to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Historic Site and spent the afternoon.  The site is very large. The one place I did not visit that day was the restored Ebenezer Baptist Church where both King and his father were pastors.

Aside from the fact that it was late and I had a panel to go to, I didn’t visit the church because at that time I still had a deep apprehension of religion. Fast forward about five years and my partner and I were led to Unitarian Universalism, specifically to this congregation.

It’s safe to say that when and if I go back, I will visit the church.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fact of my childhood. In 1968, the year he was murdered, I was nine years old. I did not question that what he said was true.

Of course Civil Rights were important – of course, everyone should be equal.

What I didn’t know then when I was watching this larger than life historic figure on my parent’s television – was that I must have been figuring out my own civil rights too.

I had a turbulent coming out process.

But there were also some moments that can only be described as elation.

One time, when my partner and I were young, we stopped to embrace and kiss on South Street.

A carful of women rode by and loudly cheered.

We were young and in love – and had we been a heterosexual couple there would have been no need for cheering or for any notice really.  In other words, we weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary.

But in that moment – of having the courage to be ourselves—we were doing something. We were making society a little larger by creating space that others could step into.

Sometimes it takes courage to be yourself.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a great man.  Paving the way for that was the fact that he was a courageous man.  The world is a different place because of him.  He’s been with me every step of the way – a fact which surfaced when I was writing Art, a novel of revolution, love and marriage. The novel is fiction, but it is also autobiographical.  In it, I wrote:

Grace looked at her list again. She tried to number the items from top to bottom in order of importance but found that everything was equally important. She didn’t think she could have women’s liberation without racial justice and civil rights.

 Just last fall in her civics class, she wrote a paper about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. He gave the speech in 1963 when she was five. She must have heard his voice on the television.  Maybe that was why it sounded so familiar when the teacher played a recording of him delivering his speech. She could hear freedom in the long cadence of his words.  Dr. King talked about men, but she could tell he was talking about women too. She wanted to be free, and she would be. She was determined to have a life different than her mother’s. The promises of democracy were for her also.

 

 

Sometimes it takes courage to be yourself – especially when that moment calls on you to be an ally to others and, ultimately, to yourself.

 

Namaste

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