Sunday, January 17, 2010

America Honors Legacy of MLK

A NATION REMEMBERS -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presents the "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Aug. 28, 1963. The life and legacy of Dr. King will be commemorated Monday, Jan. 18. (AP Photo)

'I Have a Dream'

Day of Service Tribute to King

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 a 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 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! -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, Jan. 18, this nation commemorates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the nonviolent civil rights movement in the 1960's and, 42 years after his death, still a symbolic force in the ongoing struggles toward fulfillment of his famous speech: freedom, equality, justice, dignity, respect for human beings of all ages, races, and backgrounds.

For the full text and video of Dr. King's oratory, see
I Have a Dream.

Obama Presidency Magnifies King

Significantly in 2009, Barack Obama, the nation's first African American was inaugurated on the steps of the US Capitol building one day prior to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of American citizens will honor Dr. King's legacy with community projects like tutoring children, building homes, cleaning parks, painting classrooms, delivering meals.

Participation in "a day on, not a day off" of service has grown steadily since 1994 when Congress passed legislation encouraging Americans to celebrate the King holiday in this manner, reflecting the man's life and teachings.

Following Jan. 12's devastating earthquake in Haiti, countless citizens have been inspired to direct funds and MLK Day service efforts toward this neighboring country with colossal needs.

Fans of Clay Aiken, a UNICEF Ambassador since 2004, are donating through the organization's special link: From the Heart of the Clay Nation. The Gift of Life montage below is accompanied by the singer's "Grace of God" track and can also be viewed at YouTube.

The Gift of Life - Montage by SueReu
'Grace of God' by Clay Aiken

There are numerous Internet links for the Life and Teachings of Dr. King, who would have been 81 years old on Jan. 15 had he lived. In 1968, his plans for a Poor People's March to Washington were interrupted by a trip to Memphis, TN, to support striking sanitation workers. For more information, see Wikipedia.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated by career criminal James Earl Ray as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Often quoted are these poignant words from his speech in Detroit five years earlier:

I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Just Four Blocks Away

As my junior year at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, NC, came to a close in May 1960, I was elected editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, was already writing a teen column for the Star-News Newspapers, and had just been awarded a scholarship to Northwestern University's National High School Institute in Journalism.

My parents allowed me to ride a bus from Wilmington to Evanston, IL, which is another blog in itself. Upon arriving on the Northwestern campus, I located my dorm room and began meeting new friends from throughout the country. When I told a girl my hometown, she said, "There's another girl on this hall from Wilmington, too."

That's how I met Phyllis Brown, also a high school senior and editor-in-chief elect of her newspaper. Phyllis attended all-black Williston High School just four blocks away from NHHS, which at the time was all-white.

That summer Phyllis and I became fast friends. Like all southerners at the summer institute, we were asked to demonstrate our accents time and again. With other young journalists, we participated in and wrote about a variety of events, some concocted by the faculty and some real. We toured the Chicago Tribune offices and attended the Democratic National Convention where John F. Kennedy was nominated for the presidency.

Staying in Touch

When we returned home from the six-week institute, Phyllis and I stayed in touch throughout our senior year and even on college breaks. My teen column highlighted NHHS happenings, featured stories about various students, and included a brief gossip section in which I often inserted special shout-outs of "hello" or "congratulations" to Phyllis.

That December my mother and I attended a beautiful ceremony during which my friend and several girls her age were inducted into a special sorority.

Phyllis attended Howard University, and I left in the fall for St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg. A few years later our high schools merged, but not without vicious racial riots and demonstrations. We lost contact when I married and moved to Texas.

How could two 17-year-old girls who lived within a five-mile radius of each other and attended school four blocks apart not meet until they traveled to a university campus 600 miles away from home? Separate schools were the norm throughout the South; but change was in the air, as the timeline below indicates.

Harsh Lesson in Discrimination

Mr. Caro, a drummer in the 82nd Airborne Division Band at Fort Bragg during 1963-64, also played in one of the most popular combos in eastern NC -- The House Rockers or The Components, depending on the type gig booked.

The band played the hottest music of the day -- Green Onions, Walking the Dog, Puff the Magic Dragon, Twist and Shout -- for redneck armories, black and white high school proms, country club debutante balls, you name it.

When the white Texas drummer joined the all-black combo, he was slapped with a harsh education in segregation just about the same time that Dr. King was delivering the now famous I Have a Dream speech.

En route to a gig, the band members decided to stop for hamburgers. The drummer didn't believe his musician friends when they told him he would have to place their order. The belligerent owner not only wouldn't serve the musicians, but Mr. Caro was told in no uncertain, unprintable terms where he could go, too.

This was his first personal experience with the despicable manner in which African-Americans were treated in the South. He remembers being extremely furious and that his fellow band members had to calm him down.

During a debutante ball in a local country club, Mr. Caro noticed a chaperone gradually inching her way around the room towards the band. She had been staring at the drummer throughout the 45-minute set. During a break by the band, she snuck up to him and asked, "How can you stand to play with this, this ... all black group?"

Never at a loss for snark, Mr. Caro looked the woman in the eye and drawled, "Well, 'mam, I'm only passing for white."

Remembering Dr. King

Changes in the Air

As shown in the partial Civil Rights Timeline below, during these same years (1960 - 64), history was being made with the Sit-In Movement, which originated in Greensboro; the Freedom Rides; Dr. King's speeches, projects, nonviolent marches; and subsequent civil rights legislation.

The battles for equality led by Dr. King -- and the legions of other men, women, and children before and since -- are to be celebrated and remembered on this special day.

Civil Rights Timeline

1865: 13th Amendment outlawed slavery.

1870: 15th Amendment established the right of black males to vote.

1920: 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

5-17-54: The Supreme Court ruled on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS., unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

12-1-55: Rosa Parks refused to change seats on a Montgomery, AL, bus.

Greensboro Woolworth's 1960 Sit-In

2-1-60: Four NC A&T students launched the Greensboro Sit-Ins at the Elm Street Woolworth's. After purchasing school supplies, they approached the lunch counter and ordered coffee at 4:30 p.m. Though refused service, they remained in their seats until closing. The next day 25 participated in the sit-in, the following day 63, representing more than one race.

Within two months, the Sit-In Movement had spread to 54 cities in nine states. Student sit-ins would be effective throughout the Deep South in integrating parks, swimming pools, theaters, libraries, and other public facilities.

Woolworth's Exhibit at Greensboro Historial Museum

7-25-60: The first black ate a meal sitting down at Woolworth's in Greensboro. After one week, 300 blacks had been customers. Parts of the Woolworth's counter are on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and the Greensboro Historical Museum as reminders that we never forget where we have come as a country.

1961: Integrated groups of protesters joined Freedom Rides on buses across the South to protest segregation.

1963: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

1964: Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing segregation in public accommodations and discrimination in education and employment. Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize.

1965: Congress passed Voting Rights Act of 1965. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting were made illegal.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1968: Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN, at the age of 39.

1983: Congress passed and President Reagan signed legislation creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be celebrated on the third Monday of January.

1986: Federal Martin Luther King holiday was first celebrated.

Keeping the Dream Alive

Our society is changing with younger generations on a much faster track toward a new social order than their parents and grandparents. Excerpts from middle school student essays honoring Dr. King's legacy -- "United for the Common Good" -- can be read in this Seattle Times article.

In 2009 on Meet the Press, comedian Bill Cosby described his feelings when voting for this country's first African American president. Accompanying him into the voting booth were pictures of his late father, mother, and brother James. "I pulled the curtain, took out their pictures, and said, 'And now we're going to vote.'"

He quickly added, "I only voted once ... and their pictures were out. Then I put them back in my pocket and opened the curtain. And it was wonderful."

On Jan. 18, 2010, the United States will honor Dr. King and the generations who paved the way for the historic inauguration celebrated one year ago.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even first graders are learning the significance of Dr. King. While receiving a well-deserved spanking, one reminded her mother, "According to Martin Luther King, we are supposed to use words, not fists!"

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!



SueReu said...

Thank you Caro for the fascinating blog about Martin Luther King Junior. His legacy does indeed live on and his teachings are just as appropriate today as they were so many years ago.

Also, thank you for including the UNICEF video and the link to the ClayNation UNICEF donation page. Every dollar helps, as a matter of fact just $1 can provide a child in an emergency situation safe drinking water for 40 days - safe drinking water that saves lives.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog! Thanks for sharing all the MLK information. Another great man who died to young. But he made a difference in a lot of people's lives and this nation.

Also for putting the wonderful video by SueReu. Every little bit we can do will make a difference.

Vickie (Walla)

Sandy said...

Very well written blog!
MLK was a man with a dream and we as a nation have carried out his dream. It is just so sad that a man of so much honor and integrity was taken from us soon.

Well said Mr. Caro! You too are a man of integrity!

Sue's video was very touching! It is by far one of the most heart wrenching video's I have seen yet of the suffering in Haiti. Thank you Sue.

Have a great week Caro!


T said...

Thanks so much Caro for the awareness you bring with your blogs especially celebrating the legacy of MLK. Out of the busy lives we have -- it's good to just stop and think of the many wonderful works that MLK has done. It's very inspiring and motivating.

Cheers to you Caro and appreciate all the blogs you bring -- a joy always to read.


musicfan said...

What an amazing amount to information. MLK was such an important person and he taught us all so much.

I also love reading the personal experiences you had.

Thank you for the wonderful blog.

MissSally said...

In my non-segregated Northeastern schools, black students did not mingle with whites. They had their own after-school activities and dances.

It's strange now to remember how we lived together, but never knew each other. I'm sure our lives would have been much richer if things had been different.

People of all colors owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. King.

Thank you ,Caro, for this most excellent blog.

Anonymous said...

You always give Us a wonderful blog and Thank U! Sue sure can make videos. Appreciate yah always keeping Us informed and doing such a nice job! Donna in Wi.

CCOL4HIM said...

Great blog! Where were you when I did a college term paper on Martin Luther King, Jr. :D? Take care & God bless. Love always, Cynthia

Anonymous said...

Great blog Caro. You write so well and this is such a educating blog on Martin Luther King. I also love how you shared you and Mr Caro's experiences in your own lives and how you both treated others as equals. I think Mr Kings words lived in many -- they did in you and Mr Caro.

Even a first grader can learn the meaning of those words. heeeee.

Love you so much and Mr Caro too. I pray for him and hope he is doing well.



copingincalifornia said...

Love your blog Caro. thank you for all you do.