By John L. Horton
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop … 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.”
“I’ve Been To The Mountain Top” Speech, Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr.
Again, it is time to celebrate the memory and importance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who would have been 88 years old were he still alive. Since his death on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, so much has changed … and yet, so much has remained the same.
Therefore, we must continue to live “the dream.” We must continue to honor King’s memory and legacy by becoming (re)acquainted with his fight for social justice, political fairness, and economic equity.
Sometimes I wonder, if he were alive, what would King think about how things have gone in the African-American community? What would he say? What would he do? What would he want us to do?
I am sure that King would encourage us to resolve the social, political and economic challenges that buffet us. He would remind us of individual responsibility, family stability, group cohesion and collective empowerment. And, he would remind us that many of the answers and solutions lie within us as a people.
King would demand that we empower ourselves (individuals, families and communities) by acquiring social competence and life survival skills of a positive and beneficial nature: literacy and education improvement, work and entrepreneurial attainment, political involvement, crime and drug-free lifestyles, overall personal and familial betterment, and the like. In short as a people, we need self-discipline and designated priorities.
Just as importantly, King would espouse an understanding that these challenging tasks and complicated issues cannot be easily overcome or quickly accomplished, but that they can be done. And, he would remind us to always remember that we are standing on the backs and shoulders of those who have gone before us. Therefore, we must continue the “good fight,” for failure is not an option. And, together, we “can make this climb and eventually get to the mountaintop.”
If King were alive, he would challenge us to “get the job done.” He would encourage us to put our minds and backs into the tasks before us. He would remind us that we are the “master of our fates” and the “captains of our souls.” Further, King would preach and teach about PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In Daily Efforts). And, he would inspire us with the ten most powerful words in the universe: “If it is to be, it is up to me!” Yes, he would!
Just as importantly, King would inspire us to be optimistic and positive about our lives. Furthermore, he would emphasize the uplifting philosophy and psychology of life and reality that we must fervently follow the “Socratic Wisdom” that a life unexamined is not worth living … and he would encourage us to always do the best that we can for ourselves and others.
Also, King would encourage us to show a willingness to know something, to be smart, to be curious, and to be willing to learn and accomplish a lot more. While the world we inhabit may not be all fair or just, we must be willing to try … and try … and try … We must learn to give life our utmost effort and perform at our maximum capacity.
One of the most sage and eloquent statements ever uttered by King illustrates this reality: “The most dangerous person in the world is one who is sincerely ignorant and conscientiously stupid. You have a moral responsibility to be intelligent.” Truer words have never been spoken.
If King were alive, he would stress the need for building a foundation of empowerment for teaching individuals, families and communities how to tap the power within, rather than depending on handouts and the goodwill of others. Accordingly, he would emphasize the importance of family as the original and best departments of health, education, welfare, and salvation. Simply stated, we cannot reasonably expect others to do those things that we should do for ourselves.
How I wish Dr. King were still alive! But, he’s not. However, his teachings, sacrifices and contributions will always be with us. Therefore, let us draw from his legacy and achieve his “dream” for all of us. What a great way to show respect and appreciation for the man. As the Good Book so eloquently espouses: “Blessed are those who empower others to be all that they can be …”
Long live the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.! Long live the dream! Better yet, let us celebrate the memory by achieving the dream.
John L. Horton is a resident of Norfolk and a frequent contributor to this newspaper.