On the very first day that I arrived on the campus of Emory University for my three-year pursuit of a master of divinity as a graduate student in the Candler School of Theology, I happened upon a fellow classmate whose family history positioned her among the upper echelons of Atlanta’s families. Her name was Bernice King — the youngest daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While we would exchange pleasantries, and I would even assist her in efforts to complete her graduation requirements, there was always a wall that seemed to keep me, and the majority of our classmates, at arm’s length.
I would later engage with others in the King family including Coretta Scott King, who served as a guest lecturer for several of my classes, Christine King Farris, the sister of Dr. King and his oldest son, Martin Luther King III. Naturally, they were all willing to share their personal stories about Dr. King but what really interested me was digging deeper into what influenced his profound prophetic beliefs and his creative proposals for action.
Most people are familiar with the speeches and sermons of Dr. King but may not be aware of his book-length publications. During one class, The Theology and Ethics of Dr. King, I came across a real jewel that has maintained a prominent place on my bookshelves and within my heart — “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” King wanted the U.S. and his organization to focus their actions and resources on the country’s many poor, exploited Black communities, especially their young men, whose broken lives were crying out for new opportunities in a country that, ironically, boasted about being among the world’s wealthiest. He would ask, “Who are we? Who are we meant to be? At the same time, he criticized whites who claimed to be allies while at the same time attempting to set their own timetable for the true freedom and unequivocal equality of Blacks.
On Saturday, Jan. 6, the District will celebrate the first annual MLK Holiday DC Essay Contest, sponsored by the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute, at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church in Southeast beginning at 8:30 a.m. The event will support the initiative of 62 students from the District’s elementary, middle and high schools who have submitted essays addressing the title of King’s book while also kicking off several highly-anticipated events, most notably the 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk & Parade in Southeast scheduled for Monday, Jan. 15.
King shared in his book, “To guard ourselves from bitterness we need the vision to see in this generation’s ordeals the opportunity to transfigure both ourselves and American society.” He would urge for the exploration of a “guaranteed annual income, particularly in light of the fact that at the time of his death, the U.S. had a gross national product of $750 billion a year, of a “guaranteed annual income” for those who needed it.
Are we really a country that believes in a community in which all can dream big and succeed? Or are we moving closer and closer to chaos as our leaders seek to “make America great again?” You be the judge. I already have my answer — chaos is in the wind.
Help The Washington Informer and our colleagues in support of our youth. Purchase a ticket and join us at the Prayer Breakfast with the Rev. Tony Lee, pastor, Community of Hope AME Church serving as the keynote speaker and Jacquie Gales Webb, leading the morning as the mistress of ceremonies. For info, visit www.mlkholidaydc.org.