Monday, January 15, 2007

Reflections of 1968, I was There!

I was thinking about what to write today with it being the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday. I didn't think long or wasn't hard as it was instinctive for me. After all I am old enough to remember and experience history. In this area, I experienced history. First of all, it is a day not just about Dr. King, it is a day about all who stood beside him, marched with him, and carried on without him. It is a day celebrating the millions which lived life's of abuse and prejudice before him. I supported a day honoring this man and his mission long before many others did.

I will never forget growing up and moving from one location to another. I'll never forget 1968. I was spending time in Washington DC with my grandfather and aunt. It was a year full with riots and hatred. It was the year Dr. King was killed. While growing up in the South I had heard many comments about Dr. King, a common term, even among the religious community was "Nigger." It was a word I hated then and hate even more today. It troubles me to even type the word it is so offensive. While I hated the word due to growing up among blacks, I had to spend time off and on with family members who did not live among blacks. There was so much bitterness, so much misunderstanding. I'll never forget my grandfathers' words when the news came on and announced that Dr. King had been murdered, his exact words still ring in my ears, "It is about time somebody killed that Nigger." The words stung, and hurt, they hurt and in many ways turned me away from God. If this was the type of God people worshiped, I wanted nothing to do with him. That year, I saw my grandfathers' anger grow as we would drive down the streets of Washington DC and see the city on fire.

I am pleased to say, that over the years, my grandfathers' attitude changed. He repented and asked God to forgive him. While he had been a man who had used harsh words, he and my grandmother were two people who went out of their way to help others, even if later on, those people were black. I saw a real miracle occur in the life of my grandfather. I was convinced as I got older, it was my grandfathers' own willingness to let God change his heart, even though he had been a leader in the church, even though he had many other issues, on this issue, my grandfather sought out, and received help from God to change his heart. I think most of that came about because of his own close contact and interaction with blacks as he got older. God found the easiest way to change his heart was to have family put him into close contact with friends of theirs who were also black.

My grandfather was a reflection of his culture and community. Yet, even though he was a reflection he changed. In short I think that is all Dr. King was asking, oh yea justice and all was a part of it, but he realized it wouldn't occur unless the heart changed.

There was something else about Dr. King that many forget about. He was a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was in fact, the message of Jesus that drove Dr. Kings message. I’ll never forget a few years ago hearing Felix Justice and Danny Glover do a presentation on the Poems of Langston Hughes, and the message of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Felix Justice did a powerful performance of Dr. King’s last message in Memphis. It wasn’t just a message; it was a sermon that reflected heavily on the person of Jesus Christ. It was an honor spending a little time with Danny Glover and Felix Justice after their performance talking about this.

It is a shame the religious community forgets about Minister King, it is a shame the non religious community forgets. It is up to us to make sure they are reminded of that. Dr. King was influenced and got his message from the great liberator, the great emancipator, the person of Jesus Christ. From his willingness to love his enemy, to the presentation of the salvation offered by Jesus, Dr. King did not forget about the person of Jesus. Neither should we.

In closing today, last year I put together a video I desired to reflect the liberation Jesus provides. I based and dedicated the video to John Newton, a former slave trader who changed his life, but also to Dr. King who reflected that message of having a dream. What resulted was a video that has had many thousands of views and emails commenting on it. We, my wife and I, believe in sharing the love of Christ to all people, so much we made a special request to adopt a mulatto son. We deal with the issue of loving cross culturally on a regular basis; we know it is our hearts that bring us together. It is not the chromosomes we share, or the cellular make up, it is the willingness to love each other despite color, race, sexual preference, or any other distinguishing characteristic that we may have some level of prejudice towards. Love, love in Christ, which was the message of Dr. King. Why was he so passionate? It is quite simple really. If you watch the video of Amazing Grace, you will see an amazing story, an amazing story rooted in love, one promoted by Dr. King and one we can still promote today, some years even after his death.

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