First a shoutout to my father who was born 58 years ago. This post isn’t about him but I’m a daddy’s girl and I’m not going to post on his birthday and not saying anything about it.
Okay.Now. It’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday which mostly everyone knows but I figure a lot more people will be waiting until Monday to observe it while not being at work. One of the things I can appreciate about my seven year undergrad career is that I took classes I didn’t need but found interesting. Such was the case with my Black Labor class which lead me to the book: .
This book goes into detail about the last march Martin Luther King Jr. did and why it was so important. I grew up with a base knowledge of strike which means my knowledge of Martin Luther King Jr’s last act of service was centered around his speech. It details the conditions the sanitation workers were working under and the more than reasonable demands they were making. The strike was on for a while before King stepped in but the spirit of it was fading out when he did. His presence and his words stirred up the people and gave a number of them what they needed to keep going. He had this effect on people, his dedication and his passion can still be felt when watching Youtube clips of it over 40 years later.
It covers how the infamous strike became violent and how the media turned on Martin Luther King Jr. right before, during and after it. I’m not just talking about the media that already hated him but also the media sources that liked him at first til he started branching out beyond their idea of him.
Perhaps the most radical thing about this technically ‘illegal’ strike is that the idea behind it was not radical. The signs “I Am a Man” simply demanded to be treated as men. Demanded fair pay and safety measures to prevent death on the job. People didn’t expect these poor working class black men to actually stand up for themselves because there had been decades of work in keeping them down. People didn’t expect the strike to last as long as did or for it to gain as much attention as evidence by the cocky and crooked Mayor Henry Loeb. When these men did stand up and when they continued to stand and when the leaders of the strike refused to be quiet and go home, of course the media would turn on them. They were going branching out beyond the familiar invisible role into something uncomfortable.
And finally the most haunting thing about the book concerns the facts surrounding Martin Luther King Jr’s death. The book proposes that it wasn’t just some random act of racist madness. It also notes how tired Martin Luther King Jr. was during this tired during this time. Not ‘oh I’m tired because look at all the travelling I’m doing” tired but the type of soul deep tired of a man who continued to fight for the cause and people he believed in knowing that it would very likely end in his death. The ‘coincidences’ surrounding his death that add up in the book are enough to raise an eyebrow.
Here is a clip of him speaking after hearing about the obstacles to the march in which ‘the police wouldn’t be able to prevent violence’ or you know…do their job.
So today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Martin Luther King Jr. lead a life of service and did work that most would have understood if he quit because the danger was too much. Hell, they had to force him away from the march when it got violent (seriously, read this book, it’s so good). So, not to sound like one of those ‘when I was your age we walked through dinosaur poop barefoot to school’ people but when thinking about service now and comparing what you could have done to what you’re currently doing, think of that. No one is saying “Go out be Martin Luther King Jr.” part of the reason we (read: black people) aren’t getting as far as we could is because we are waiting for another Martin Luther King Jr. No one saying “hey go risk your life for a really great cause”.
Nope. Just saying, if possible, on Monday when you have the day off because you’re “observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day”, then actually observe it. Take the time to learn about his work or, crazy idea, if possible go do something in the service of others.
*steps off soapbox*