Published on June 20, 2018
By: Bishop Toris T. Young
On April 4, 2018, America remembered the mark of the 50th anniversary of one of the darkest hours in American History. We paused to recall that heartbreaking moment
in Memphis, Tennessee, when an assassin's bullet cut short the life of our beloved Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There was those whose vision and witness of thoseterrible
days was the product of televised images: pictures of rioting; cities burning; federal troops, with weapons drawn, patrolling the streets all caused by America's original
sin of Racism and Hate.
My own family members who worked side by side with Dr. King in 1968 attest that the tortured events conveyed in these archives of our past were real and Racism and Hate is still real and alive today. We affirm that the social upheaval that followed the murder of the man who became our nation's greatest prophet tore at the fabric of our civilization. We can acknowledge that, when a people's aspirations are first raised to unimaginable heights - and then brutally bashed - there will be those who will react with unthinking and violent destruction we can concede all of this about 1968 because those events revealed a truth about human nature that Dr. king well understood. yet, the upheaval that followed Dr. King's murder was only one aspect of the truth about our national character that began to be revealed in 1968. A deeper and more lasting truth about that difficult time, a truth that has direct relevance to the time in which we now live - is this. Tragic events and unjust circumstances cannot be ignored. They force each of us to make a choice.
When Dr. King was taken from us, thousands may have rioted - but millions of Americans, women and men boys and girls of good will from every background and ethnic heritage, stared into the depths of their hearts and souls and chose to make a commitment. Out of their pain grew our passion to make Dr. King's dream a reality - a "blessed community" of justice, opportunity and peace - not only for those of us who are Americans of Color but for everyone.
During the decades that followed, those who were young in 1968 have faltered at times, but, in the main, they have done all that they could to keep those promises they made to Dr. King's memory, to each other and, above all, to ourselves today. We have worked to advance an uplifting vision for humanity, drawn to the same vocation that the Word of God speaks to our heart to love one another and I trust that all or every religion command us to pursue love. Most encouraging of all, when my generation has been tempted by doubt, younger Americans have stepped forward to renew our faith. I share these reflections about Dr. King's legacy with you for a reason. Just as those were challenged in 1968, our current realities now demand that each of us choose how to respond today. Once again, as in 1968, our nation is struggling to overcome forces of societal conflict, official inhumanity and calculated distrust that far surpass anything that we have been required to endure in the last five decades. Once again, there are those in national power who are seeking to dominate our nation by dividing us from our countrymen and women - false leaders whose governing strategy is grounded in the Hobbesian dictum, "Bellum omnium contra omnes," the war of all against all. Once again, hundreds of millions of Americans are going to sleep at night deeply troubled - not only dismayed, but acutely afraid of what appalling developments the morning may bring. I frankly declare these dangers to us all because those of who were raised up to adulthood and citizenship by Dr. King and the religious, social and political movement he helped lead are not naive, not afraid and, above all, not defeated.
We have endured and overcome these dangers before, and we understand the writ of history. Our nation's darkest hours have often been just before the dawn - and so it can be again, if an engaged citizenry stands up, marches together and demands the light of love and justice for all. The principle objectives and demands of the American people are clear, the aspirations of 1968 carried forward to the present day:
A nation that is strong, but also one that uses its military and economic strength to create rather than destroy, uses its police power to protect and serve rather than oppress, and offers economic opportunity to all;
We must see all people as children of the Most High God, and that no matter where they come from or where they are going we must treat them as we want to be treated, there are no “big me's” and “little u's”, "We Are One".
This vision of our objectives in 2018 is fundamentally the same as Dr. King's vision in 1968; and I am convinced that an American majority is ready to march in to that light - the light of our democracy restored, the light of love being restored.
Those who seek to lead should take heed. As Dr. King used to remind us, there is nothing more powerful than the rhythm of marching feet, the marching feet of a determined people, to love each other and stand together to make America the nation it could be.
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