It’s time for another post, and in observance of the holiday I thought I would make it Martin Luther King Jr.-themed.
To be honest, other than what I learned in school and a few brief things that I once read, I really don’t know much about Dr. King. I know that he was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement, which happened in the later part of the 1960’s, and that he led and inspired “peaceful protests,” many of which were stifled by the local law enforcement agencies in the towns where the protests were taking place, sometimes violently. I know that he was a political influencer of some sort, helping to pass laws on state and federal levels that led to less discrimination against African Americans, allowing them to begin to enjoy those rights that should be allotted every man. And I am somewhat familiar with his earth-shaking “I Have A Dream” speech, which is generally held today as one of the best pieces of rhetoric ever written. But as far as specific dates, facts, and movements, I must admit the lessons wore off.
I do, however, have some inkling of the sort of character Dr. King must of been to accomplish what he accomplished. He must have been a man of unwavering determination, one who recognized that there were injustices happening and did not hesitate to go to any lengths to correct them. Obviously he faced intense opposition in his endeavors, as many great leaders do, and was ultimately, and tragically, assassinated. But he is known for fighting a great fight, for almost singlehandedly redirecting the course of history, and not even on his own behalf, but for the behalf of others. And not only of all African Americans at the time, but for all people, then and since. He was a fighter for human rights, for the rights of humans to be treated… well, as humans – and for the rights of humans to treat their kind with respect and love, which, he believed, is the natural state. His vision was a world without divisions – one in which each race, color, ethnic background could walk alongside one another peacefully and harmoniously. The fact that King himself was African American did not restrict his vision to rights for only African Americans.
There is a collective consciousness that is aware on some level of Dr. King, and with a big reverence. His name and icon-status has been burned into our brains, and he is widely held as the man who “gave rights to African Americans during the 1960’s.” While this is obviously not entirely true, Dr. King certainly was at the crest of a big wave that made a huge splash, that is still rippling today. Actually, this very day: January 20, 2014. On this day, we may be hustling and bustling and then suddenly notice the artwork adorning the “Google” logo as we open our Internet browser. Or we may overhear somebody saying something about the holiday. Or we may already have the day from work off, if we work for an institution that honors the holiday – in which case we might already be aware of the holiday ourselves. I know in my case, I didn’t even remember it was MLK day until I logged onto WordPress and caught a picture of a flier advertising an orchestra concert at the University of Utah.
OR, maybe you are ahead of the game and have already been celebrating. Whatever the case, today is a great day to relax and reflect on the Man and the values he represented. (Wouldn’t be a bad idea to read the blog post I just linked to, and subscribe to its author, Robert Baldwin! The post is awesome as it talks about the music – ragtime, jazz, and blues – that accompanies the spirit of that turbulent time.) To me, the really inspiring thing about Dr. King was his philanthropy – his sense of working for everyone. That seems to be what he was doing when he led the marches, when he pushed for more fair laws, when he delivered his speeches. And it’s also similar to what any person with high aspirations hopes to achieve – a way to serve, to help, to give. It’s what artists and musicians do on some level with their art and music, it’s what teachers do with their lesson plans, it’s what entrepreneurs do (hopefully) with their businesses…
Today really should be celebrated. After a few hours of sleep, I’m heading off to Nashville for a couple of days to reconnect with some friends and to rejoin some musical circles I’ve been missing. As I do so, I will contemplate, in the spirit of the day, various ways that I can channel my talents into gifts, so that not only myself or my immediate social circle can enjoy them, but so that the world can.
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!