Two years ago on the 10th July 2010, I was standing at Lincoln Memorial at Washington DC, looking out over the reflection pool, at the exact same spot where the great late Dr Martin Luther King Jr had stood on 28 August 1963, 5 months after I was born, givin his famous "I had a Dream" speech to the biggest gathering of over 200,000 people on his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom event. (http://mynikonni.blogspot.com/2011/05/lincoln-memorial-washington-dc-where.html).
As I stood there, I could vividly imagine being in the crowd, cheering as this great man proclaimed ...
"I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.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.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."
God, what a man! What a vision! What commitment! ...and what a sacrifice he has made in order to see it come true....
Two years later on 19thy July 2012, I had to chance to visit Atlanta, Georgia, the very birth place of this great man of our history.
When I learnt that there was a National Historic site dedicated to him and a chance to see the very place where he preached and where he was born, I was determined to see it no matter how difficult it would be to get there....
Although I was living downtown at Peachtree Street, the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site is still a good 40 minutes walk from Hyatt Regency where I stayed. But I was determined. I wanted to walk through the very streets where he grew up....and it was a rather rewarding and harrowing experience at the same time.
As I left downtown Atlanta, walking into the late Dr Martin's neighborhood, I was walking into area predominantly occupied by the blacks. During my 40 minutes walk, I hardly came across any whites and being an Asian (unfortunately with ill preconceived ideas of how dangerous these neighborhoods could be), I was actually terrified.
I was stopped by a `friendly' black man who`offered' me some friendly information about the neighborhood and in return, he asked for some `help'. I gave him USD10 since that was the smallest note I had at that time. I am uncertain whether I had done the right thing but it seemed like the most sensible thing to do at that point in time.
But a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site is probably the most rewarding trip for me in Atlanta.
With the backdrop of the various Dr Martin's speech videos being played, I walked past the many news clippings of the many efforts of the late Dr Martin's to fight NOT against just colour of the skin, nor race BUT for INJUSTICE! The fight for equality and Freedom. A fight that took his life.
As great as a man that he was, Dr Martin was still a man, a man just like you and me, a man with fear, a man with insecurity, as shown in the story below. But he was a man with faith and a man of commitment ......
"My Wife had already fallen asleep and I was about to doze off when the telephone rang. An angry voice said "Listen, nigger, we've taken all we want from you. Before next week you'll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery." I hung up, but I could not sleep. It seemed that all my fears had come down on me at once. I had reached the saturation point.
I got out of bed and began to walk the floor. Finally, I went to the kitchen and heated a pot of coffee. I was ready to give up. I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing to be a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had almost gone, I determined to take my problem to God. My head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud ..."I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers, I have nothing left...I can't face it alone."
At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never before experienced him. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice, saying, "Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth. God will be at your side forever." Almost at once my fears began to pass from me. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything. The outer situation remained the same but God had given me inner calm.
Three nights later, our home was bombed."
What faith! What courage!
Dr Martin almost foresaw his assassination in 1968! In his last sermon at his home church in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, his famous `Drum Major' speech was played at his funeral ...
"If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.
As I sat in his church, as I listened the the played back sermons of this great man, I was trying hard to hold back my tears, with a lump in my throat ....If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.
In his last public speech known as the "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech, delivered on April 3, 1968, he spoke ...
"And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't really matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live - a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord"
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated the very next day.
Yes....herein lies a man and his wife who gave their life with a firm commitment and belief that all man are created equal. It is NOT a fight about religion! It is NOT a fight about politics! It is NOT a fight about the color of the skin, although the fight was closely associated with the blacks who were severely oppressed then in the States.....IT WAS A NON VIOLENCE FIGHT AGAINST INJUSTICE!
In front of the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site stands the statue of Kunte Kinte (from the miniseries `Roots') holding up his baby daughter Kizzy at her baptism ....
This is definitely a must visit for anyone who has the opportunity to visit Atlanta. Of the many places that I have visited, I must said that this is one place that leaves the deepest impact and impression in my life .....
The birthplace and the final resting place of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the man who has a dream and who gave up his life for that dream, so that others could have their dreams fulfilled....this is where it all began .......