At about 2am last night I was passing through Memphis. About 14 minutes off my path was this sacred site. When I walked up, it was just me and the silence of the night. Such an awful, awful thing happened here 50 years ago this coming April. It’s hard to stand here and not feel immense sadness, pain and anger. I’ve heard many of his friends claim it was his impassioned views on income inequality that got him shot. Something we still have politicians and advocates confronting today. When I study Dr. King, I realize that were he not killed here, chances are many people wouldn’t be thrilled about his presence today. Much like the views of men who walked with King. Whether John Lewis, Sharpton, Jackson, or Belafonte the way we still treat many of these men makes me really wonder just how beloved the real Dr. King would be to much of White America today. I’m not so sure. When I look at a man like Bernie Sanders, I see a man running on a similar platform to the writings of Dr. King and we still are vilifying those hopes and dreams. Degrading Kings dreams as “handouts” and calling those who desire such a change “victims” who refuse to fend for themselves.
We still disregard the protests of Black America. We still desire “peace” or to “avoid politics” rather than seek justice. We still are that great stumbling block. But we also have come further than the day this man gave up His ghost. Such a beautiful, complex awareness. Rejoice in the progress that has been made and use it as a hope to keep pushing forward towards the impossibilities of heaven.
As I stood there, I listened to freedom songs, many of which I sang as I marched behind people of color as they led me from Charlottesville to D.C. to confront the systemic racism of White Supremacy. I listened to King’s “I have seen the mountaintop” speech from the day before his assassination.
It’s a devastating place to stand. But it’s a powerful place to stand too. To listen to this mans words here, in this space, fills you with a hopeful and determined spirit. It is a deeply honest landmark. May we never stop seeking that promised land. May we never stop liberating others from injustice.
And may the spirit of Dr. King, so deeply rooted in his faith of his savior Jesus Christ, urge, confront, and call us to be hopeful enough to persevere.