Sunday, January 16, 2011

America Marks King Anniversary with Service Day

A NATION REMEMBERS -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presents the "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Aug. 28, 1963. The 25th anniversary of the federal holiday honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King will be celebrated Monday, Jan. 17. (AP Photo)

25th Anniversary of MLK Holiday

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. 17, 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, 44 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.

King Legacy of Service Celebrates 25th Anniversary.

Dr. King changed the course of history and inspired this country to build what he called "the beloved community." The above King Legacy of Service 25th Anniversary video tells the story of how this countryman's birthday evolved into a national day of service.

Featuring civil rights luminaries such as Congressman John Lewis, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery, and Ruby Bridges, the six-minute video emphasizes the importance of keeping Dr. King's legacy of service alive and challenges all to make service a part of their lives ─ everyday of the year.

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.

January 17, 2011, marks the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. The milestone is a perfect opportunity for Americans to honor the King legacy through service. To learn where and how you can participate, explore the MLK Day website.

First Lady Michelle Obama wrote the following:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was much more than a civil rights champion -- he was a man who lived his entire life in service to others, speaking out against poverty, economic injustice, and violence. Through his leadership, he showed us what we can accomplish when we stand together.

Each January, we remember Dr. King on his own holiday -- and one of the best ways to preserve his legacy is to engage in service ourselves. As Dr. King told us, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"

That's why this Monday, January 17th, Organizing for America volunteers will be participating in service projects all across the country in Dr. King's honor. There will be food drives, neighborhood clean-ups, education projects, blood drives, and more.

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.

Haitian Earthquake Inspires Donations

Following the Jan. 12, 2010, devastating earthquake in Haiti, US citizens were inspired to direct funds and Martin Luther King service efforts toward a neighboring country with colossal needs.

Fans of Clay Aiken, a UNICEF Ambassador since 2004, donated through the organization's special link that is still active this January: From the Heart of the Clay Nation. The "Gift of Life" montage below is accompanied by the singer's "Grace of God" track from the On My Way Here album.

The Gift of Life - Montage by SueReu
'Grace of God' sung by Clay Aiken
View montage full screen at YouTube.

There are countless Internet links on the Life and Teachings of Dr. King, who would have been 82 years old on Jan. 15 had he lived. In 1968, his plans to lead a Poor People's March to Washington were interrupted by a trip to Memphis, TN, to support striking sanitation workers.

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 on this day of remembrance are 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.

Today marks the fourth year since 2007 that I have posted this blog entry with updates and slight alterations. Next to Clay Aiken, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the most searched topic in the Carolina blog's "live feed."

Homework assignments would be my first assumption, although "searchees" have arrived from countless countries around the globe.

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.

Drummer Orders Burgers for Band

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 chaperon 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 snarky reply, Mr. Caro looked the woman in the eye and drawled, "Why, '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. The lunch counter is now on display in the International Civil Rights Center and Museum located on the original Woolworth's site in Greensboro.

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 photos 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. 17, 2011, the United States honors Dr. King and the generations who paved the way for the historic inauguration celebrated two years 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.

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

Happy Birthday, Dr. King! Here's to a memorable week, America!



Anonymous said...

Hi Caro,

Wow!! Awesome Tribute to Dr Martin Luther King! We have come a long way for sure, but at times I think we still have a ways to go. My Son, Daughter-In-Law and Grandson are doing a community service day in Philadelphia today.
As always....I love "Montage by SueReu 'Grace of God' sung by Clay Aiken" Such talent!!

Have a wonderful week.

Big Warm Hugs,

MissSally said...

Our First Lady Michelle Obama, the direct descendant of slaves, now lives in a house that was built by slaves. This morning I downloaded the e-book version of "How Michelle Obama Leads", and look forward to reading it.

Dr King's "Dream" lives on, and our nation will forever be enriched.

Thanks, Caro, for this important, inspiring blog.

katy said...

Each day we all need to work to continue to promote civil rights. Excellent timeline, Caro. When I realize how young MLK was when he was killed, 39, and he made such a difference.

Ginger Scarlett said...

I'm still learning about your blog and this is my first time to explore your MLK tribute. You and Roy would've made him proud!!!

I'm glad you take the time to honor important events the way they should.

Looking forward to the upcoming blogs!

All the best,

Anonymous said...

That was awesome blog. You really are a great writer.Hugs Margaret

Sandy said...

Beautiful blog and very informative. Although a lot of these events happened decades ago, the images are still ingrained in our brain as though they happened just yesterday.
Was watching Piers Morgan interview Oprah last night and when Piers reminded her that the most powerful woman and the most powerful man in the USA today are both black, Oprah was close to tears! She holds Dr. Martin Luthern King with the highest reverance, knowing that in all probability, if it were not for him, she most likely would not be where she is today.

Have a great week Caro!


musicfan said...

Caro........thank you for this informative blog. You always give us so much information and the style is so nice to read.