BROTHER DR. KING RECEIVING THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
Life 8 Timeline
Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Exemplar of the Ideals of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
18 The Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
20 Excerpt from Letter from Birmingham Jail
24 Excerpt from I Have A Dream
Official Publication of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Commemorative Issue | Volume 11, No. 2 www.apa1906.net
30 MLK50 Commemoration Attracts Thousands to Memphis
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Henry A. Stewart firstname.lastname@example.org
In Observance of King
MANAGING EDITOR Eric Christopher Webb email@example.com
LAYOUT EDITOR AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR Malik Whatley
Eulogy to Brother Martin Luther King, Jr.
CONTRIBUTORS Everett B. Ward, Jamie Riley, Henry A. Stewart, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lionel H. Newsom, Eric Christopher Webb, Jonathan C. Augustine, Robert L, Harris, Jr., Vic Carter
39 Babylon, Birmingham, and Black Lives Matter
PHOTOGRAPHERS Malik Whatley, Chris Palmer PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE Ramon E. Peralta, Jr., L.H.D., Chair Paul E. Brown, Lawrence Buirse, Ricardo P. Deveaux, Wendel Eckford, LaMarcus Hall, Aaron Jones, Steven Misher, Donald Ross, Jeffrey E. Sterling, Marvin Venay
Legacy 43 The Memorialization of Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
EDITORIAL OFFICES Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity 2313 St. Paul Street Baltimore, MD 212I8-5211 (410) 554-0040 www.apa1906.net
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.: The Initiator, the Catalyst, the Driving Force behind the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial
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ON THE COVER
MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
FROM THE GENERAL PRESIDENT
Letter from the General President LET US RISE UP My Brothers of Alpha:
Everett B. Ward, Ph.D. General President Twitter: @AlphasforWARD
On April 4, 2018, Alpha men from around the world assembled with the brothers of the Southern region, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the life and legacy of Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As your General President, I commissioned this special edition of the Sphinx magazine to historically reflect on the true legacy of Brother King. The articles contained in this publication offer a historical context to understand the courageous and uncompromising leadership exemplified by our brother. While reading the pages of this Sphinx magazine, I encourage you to remain focused on Brother King's unwavering position to fight against injustice. In order to adequately affirm and celebrate the legacy of Brother King, our fraternity must be determined and committed to fight against injustice today and tomorrow. This noble cause to fight against injustice must be advanced by a new generation of Alpha men who are empowered with knowledge based on an accurate historical foundation to guide their path forward. Please join me in thanking our fraternity historian, Brother Dr. Robert Harris, for his enormous contributions to this special edition. In celebration of Brother King's legacy as an Alpha man, a man of the gospel, and as an accomplished scholar, the General Organization conducted an Omega Service in his honor. This Omega Service was led by the Past General Presidents. I would extend a special thanks to Past general president Milton Carver Davis for his vision and leadership in guiding the Omega Service. I leave you with the words spoken by Brother King on April 3, 1968 as the clarion call for our continued mission to fight against injustice. Dr. King stated, "Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be." With a great readiness and determination, we shall always march Onward and Upward S
4 4 SPHINX THE SPHINX
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FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Letter from the Executive Director ROADMAPS TO OUR FUTURE Dear Brothers: Our beloved Brother Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to the nonviolent struggle for racial equality in the United States. In the fifty years since his assassination, his legacy has created a path for our fraternity to follow concerning the fight for racial justice and equality.
Jamie R. Riley, Ph. D. Executive Director/COO Twitter: @jrriley03
The year 2018 will be a year filled with remembrances of Dr. King because in it falls the 50th anniversary of our dear brother’s assassination. It will also be a year filled with remembrances of the time when Dr. King did a great deal of his work, a time in which the country seemed divided even to the breaking point. In many such remembrances, there will be parallels drawn amid our present climate of political division and radicalized opposition. It is incumbent on us as Alpha Men to recall the lessons of the past as roadmaps to our future. We look to the words and deeds of Dr. King and many like him to guide us through this present journey. Brother King’s words ushered in a new era of racial equality and progress in America. Change did not come easily, and for many, including Brother King, it came with the cost of their lives. His legacy is the dream he pursued and the revolution he began, one which we the Men of Alpha must continue today. S “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time.” –Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches
FROM THE EDITOR
Letter from the Editor-In-Chief THERE COMES A TIME Dear Brothers: We are living in unprecedented times. In the time since the assassination of Brother Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. time has taught our society many lessons about the value of all humanity and the benefit of building bridges and not walls. In recent years the garment of mutuality that binds us as society has been damaged by racism and extreme political division.
Henry A. Stewart Editor-In-Chief email@example.com
As Alpha men, we have been charged to always work to perpetuate a common brotherhood between all people where opportunity and progress are the results of free access to liberty. The example of reform and revolution set by Dr. King holds us accountable and cautions us away from complacency. The words of Dr. King are an enduring reminder of the need for people of good conscience to voice resolute and determined objections to bigotry and oppression. Brother King reminded us in a Testament of Hope that “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right”. Brother King’s voice reverberates through history and his message still resonates in the hearts and minds of those who understand that it is our time to advocate and agitate until we truly see the dream that Brother King described. As we continue with the Urgency of Now this edition of the Sphinx turns our attention to the words, life, and legacy of our esteemed Brother Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.as rallying point and source of inspiration to push our brotherhood toward creating the beloved community S
MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
BROTHER DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. TIMELINE
August 11, 1956 Keynote Speaker for Alpha’s 50th Anniversary Convention
January 15, 1929
June 22, 1952
Born to a Black middle class family in Atlanta, Georgia
Initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (front row, far right)
June 5, 1955
February 15, 1948
Received Doctorate in Systematic Theology from Boston University
Ordained a Baptist minister at age 19
September 13, 1951 Enrolled in doctoral program at Boston University’s School of Theology
January 11, 1957 Southern Christian Leadership Conference Founded
September 20, 1944 Enrolled in Morehouse College at age 15
1955-56 Rosa Parks arrested; sparks Montgomery Bus Boycott
May 8, 1951 Graduated Class Valedictorian from Crozer Theological Seminary
June 18, 1953 Married Coretta Scott
October 16, 2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Dedicated in Washington, D.C.
December 4, 1967 From Civil Rights to Human Rights: SCLC Announces the Poor Peoples’ Campaign
August 28, 1963 March on Washington
May 17, 1957
March 25, 1965
Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom
April 4, 1968
Selma to Montgomery March
Assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis
March 28, 1968 December 10, 1964 Receives Nobel Peace Prize at age 35
Leads Solidarity March for Sanitation Workers in Memphis
April 16, 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail
April 4, 1967
November 12, 1996
Speech “Beyond Vietnam” Delivered at New York’s Riverside Church
Congress passed Public Law 104-333, authorizing Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to raise funds and to manage the process for building a memorial to Dr. King in Washington, D.C.
MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
BY BROTHER ROBERT L. HARRIS, JR., NATIONAL HISTORIAN
Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Exemplar of the Ideals of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
n Jewel Henry Arthur Callis’ Fraternal Address, which was printed in the Sphinx Magazine, February, 1959, he stated that: “We were serious young men, distraught by the problems of our period. We were dedicated to the extension of the privilege of education for all; to the struggle for the inalienable rights of all men in all societies; to the building of leadership of the oppressed that should place service before self.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., who was initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, on June 22, 1952, exemplified those ideals. Throughout his life, he placed “service before self.” Bro. Dr. King reminded us that: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
A Negro and Yet a Man Bro. Dr. King was born into a life of comfort in Atlanta, Georgia. His maternal- grandfather built Ebenezer Baptist Church into one of the largest and most respected Black churches in the city. He developed an activist tradition for the church as a member of the Georgia Equal Rights League, the National Baptist Convention, and President of the Atlanta NAACP Chapter. Bro. Dr. King’s father, son of a sharecropper in Stockbridge, Georgia, was determined to make something of himself, by moving to Atlanta, working odd jobs, completing a high school equivalency in his late twenties, and becoming assistant pastor at Ebenezer. He later married the pastor’s daughter, Bro. Dr. King’s mother. Daddy King, as he was popularly known, became pastor of Ebenezer in 1932 after the death of his father-in-law. He continued the activist tradition of his father-in-law at Ebenezer. He refused to ride segregated buses and defiantly used City Hall elevators that were marked “whites only.” Born Michael King, Daddy King changed his name and that of his son to Martin Luther King after a church sponsored trip to the Holy Land and to Germany, where he was impressed by the work of Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation.
a store, Daddy King insisted that they would either sit in the front, or not purchase any shoes there at all. Bro. Dr. King remembered his father adamantly declaring that he would never accept the system of segregation as long as he lived. At age 15, before he entered Morehouse College, Bro. Dr. King traveled by bus to Dublin, Georgia, about 135 miles from Atlanta, for an oratorical contest. He made a presentation on “The Negro and the Constitution” with rhetoric and arguments that foreshadowed his later speeches. His presentation concluded with a flourish, stating that he looked forward to that day when his “brother of the darkest hue” might stand beside whites “a Negro and yet a man!” Despite his brilliance, Bro. Dr. King placed second in the contest. On the long bus ride home, the bus driver demanded that he and his teacher give up their seats to white passengers who had boarded after them. Bro. Dr. King refused and stood up only after his teacher’s intercession. The incident was seared into his memory and he later reflected that it was the angriest moment in his life.
Daddy King had expectations that MLK, Jr. would follow his footsteps into the ministry. Both his mother, Alberta King and his father, instilled a sense of pride in Bro. Dr. King and his siblings. To the extent possible, the King children could not patronize segregated businesses or use “segregated” water fountains. When ordered to try on shoes in the rear of MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
The Social Gospel After graduating from Morehouse College, Bro. Dr. King attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He was determined to avoid racial stereotypes about African Americans in this predominately white setting. Therefore, he was rarely late, did not laugh excessively out loud, shoes were shined, his shirts were freshly laundered, and his room was clean and neat. He applied himself in his studies and although not a top student at Morehouse, he graduated first in his class at Crozer. Unlike his father, who practiced and preached his faith in the evangelical tradition, with literal adherence to the Bible, Bro. Dr. King,
was strongly influenced by the Morehouse College President Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, and the Social Gospel as taught at Crozer. He followed the more prophetic tradition in addressing the ills of society rather than focusing primarily on salvation in heaven. He endorsed Mays’s “third way” between capitalism and communism. Toward the end of his life, Bro. Dr. King leaned more toward socialism as he considered the root causes of colonialism, racism, war, and poverty. In the fall of 1951, Bro. Dr. King began doctoral study at Boston University, where he encountered Howard Thurman, a family friend, who became the first Black dean of chapel at a predominantly white university. Thurman held that the first order of social change was changing one’s individual, internal spirit. He eschewed confrontation with the broader society, although Thurman was profoundly influenced by Mohatma Ghandi, whom he met on a 1936 visit to India. Bro. Dr. King was deeply moved by Thurman’s 1949 book, Jesus and the Disinherited. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Bro. Dr. King kept the book constantly by his side. It interprets Jesus’ teachings through the experience of the oppressed and the need for a nonviolent response to such oppression. It was while at Boston University that Bro. Dr. King became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Bro. Dr. King was 25-years old, in October, 1954, when he accepted the pastorate of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He had been married for only a year and had not finished his doctoral dissertation at Boston University, which he completed about six months later and received his doctoral degree. Like his grandfather and his father, he insisted that
each member of the congregation become a registered voter, and a member of the NAACP. He organized a social and political action committee within the church to keep the congregation “…intelligently informed on social, political, and economic” issues. Bro. Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, had just given birth to a daughter, two weeks before Mrs. Rosa Parks, on December 1, 1955, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery Bus.. She did so not because was physically exhausted, but was emotionally, morally, and spiritually tired of the segregation, abuse and humiliation that Black women, in particular, faced each day on the buses. African Americans in Montgomery had to enter the buses from the front, pay their fare, then get off the bus, and re-enter from the rear in fair weather or foul. If they did not move fast enough, the white bus driver, depending on his mood that day, might pull off and leave them stranded, even after they had paid their fare. Not only had they lost their fare, but many of them ended up late for work. Unlike several Black women before her who had refused to give up their seats and were charged with disorderly conduct, Mrs. Rosa Parks was charged with violating Montgomery’s segregation ordinance. The Women’s Political Council, whose head, Mrs. Jo Ann Robinson, was a member of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, had planned action against the segregated buses for some time given the indignities that Black women confronted on the buses. Thanks to the charge,, a case could be made directly against the system of bus segregation. The Women’s Political Council called for a boycott of the buses on the same day as Mrs. Parks’ court date –Dec. 5. Hardly any Black people rode the buses that day. The Women’s Political Council and community leaders announced MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
a meeting for that evening to discuss strategy for continuing the boycott. At the meeting, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed and Bro. Dr. King was selected to lead it. Although Bro. Dr. King later gained great glory and acclaim, he was reluctant to step forward as leader of the MIA. He had been in Montgomery for a little more than a year and a half, had a new child, and was settling into his ministry at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Other Black ministers had been in Montgomery much longer. Moreover, there was great risk in stepping forward. , Despite the fact that most of his parishioners were solidly middle class, financial pressure could be brought on his church and congregants. Because he was a relative newcomer, and came from an established family in Atlanta, Bro. Dr. King had a cushion unavailable to other Black ministers in Montgomery. But he could never have anticipated that in little over a month into the boycott, his home would be bombed with his wife, and two-month old daughter inside. The Montgomery Improvement Association On the night of the formation of the MIA, with about a half hour to prepare his remarks, Bro. Dr. King gave one of his most important, but neglected speeches. He intoned with his magnificent baritone voice and southern cadence that: “If you will protest courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say: ‘There lived a race of people, black people, fleecy locks and black complexion, of people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.” Those profound words changed the trajectory of this country, 13
and indeed the world. The movement, which started in Montgomery, Alabama, gave new meaning to history and to civilization. Time Magazine would later feature Bro. Dr. King on its cover as a “Founding Father” of the United States and “Architect of the 21st Century.” Those accolades, however, came with a price. As author James L. Swanson has written in Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassin, Bro. Dr. King unlike Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy was under constant threat of violence and fear. He received death threats, was physically attacked, and in September, 1968 was stabbed by a deranged Black woman in Harlem while autographing copies of his book, Stride Toward Freedom, about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The doctors at Harlem Hospital explained to Bro. Dr. King that if he had sneezed, the seven-inch blade lodged in his chest would have punctured his aorta, and he would have drowned in his own blood. To sustain the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the MIA organized car pools to transport African Americans who stayed off the buses, and in many instances, walked to work. Black doctors, lawyers, dentists, professors, morticians, cab drivers, pharmacists, and businessmen made their vehicles available to transport Black people dependent on the buses. Bro. Dr. King used the example of Bro. Rev. T. J. Jemison, who led a successful bus boycott two years earlier in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in which they used car pools to get people to work. The “Talented Tenth” joined with maids, cooks, and laborers across class lines to attack segregation on the buses. Bro. Dr. King noted that he, himself, had not been on a bus. He like most middle class African Americans in Montgomery had his own transportation. They could easily have shrugged their shoulders and said, this is not my fight. But in the spirit of 14
Jewel Callis, they were providing leadership for the oppressed. Moreover, Black men came to a battle started by Black women. Dr. King stated that: “Now my automobile is gonna be in it, and I’m not concerned about how much gas I’m gonna use. I want to see this thing work. And we will not be content until oppression is wiped out of Montgomery, and really out of America. We are merely insisting on the dignity and worth of every human personality. I’m not arguing for any selfish person. I’ve never been on a bus in Montgomery. But I would be less than a Christian if I stood back and said, because I don’t ride a bus, that it doesn’t concern me. I will not be content. I can hear a voice saying, ‘If you do it unto the least of these, my brother, you do it unto me.” The City of Montgomery pursued an indictment against Bro. Dr. King and 89 others for violating a law that prohibited conspiring to hinder any company from conducting its business. An all-white jury found Bro. Dr. King guilty of conspiracy and sentenced him to a year in jail or a $500 fine plus court costs. Alphas Support Dr. King Morally and Financially While Bro. Dr. King was on trial, Alpha General President Frank Stanley, Sr., General Secretary James E. Huger, and other Fraternity officials traveled to Montgomery to support him. The National Office and chapters across the country provided financial support to Bro. Dr. King and the MIA in the amount of $4,500, about $40,000 today. At Alpha’s 50th Anniversary Convention banquet on August 11, 1956, Bro. Dr. King was the keynote speaker.. The title of his speech was “The Birth of a New Age.” He thanked General President
Stanley and the Brothers of Alpha for their moral and financial support. He reflected that: “I can remember those days, very dark days, when many of us confronted a trial in court and I could look out in the courtroom and see our very eminent General President. That made me feel very good as an Alpha man and I want to thank you for what you have done all along.” Bro. Dr. King intoned that: “With this new sense of dignity, with this new self-respect…the Negro decided to rise up against the old order of segregation and discrimination.” Two key principles animated Bro. Dr. King’s life and thought as a child, a leader, and as an Alpha. He firmly believed in the strength and dignity of African Americans and in their ability to achieve freedom, justice, and equality not just for themselves but for “downtrodden humanity.” But he warned in the prophetic tradition that: “We cannot be complacent…The vanguards and the guardians of the status quo are always on hand with their obstacles in an attempt to keep the old order alive. … We must continue to stand up… .” Moreover, in the spirit of Jewel Callis, he called for leaders who placed “service above self.” He pleaded that: “We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity but in love with humanity. Leaders, who can subject their particular egos to the pressing urgencies of the great cause of freedom. …Leaders…whom the lust of office cannot buy, who have honor and will not lie.” Bro. Dr. King joined forces with other Black ministers in the South to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, with the motto “To Redeem the Soul MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
of America.” On the third anniversary of the Brown v. Education Supreme Court decision (May 17, 1957), which ended legal school segregation, SCLC launched its Crusade for
Citizenship campaign with a demonstration before the Lincoln Memorial while Congress debated the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. Bro. Dr. King waxed eloquent with the refrain “Give us the Ballot.” He intoned: “Give us the Ballot” and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the Ballot.” Bro. Dr. King was once again addressing the issue of Black self-sufficiency. He did not eschew “white allies” but believed that: “Whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.” Letter from Birmingham Jail In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” surreptitiously written and distributed, while Bro. Dr. King was jailed in April, 1963 for disobeying an injunction against 15
demonstrations, he expressed two major disappointments, i.e. with white moderates and the white church. Both with few exceptions were more devoted to order and the status quo than to justice. And preferred a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.” They did not understand the need for active nonviolent protest to bring attention to injustice, to create positive tension without rancor or hatred, to bring people of good will together to work out a solution. Bro. Dr. King reminded African Americans that: “For more than two centuries our fore-parents labored here without wages; they made cotton king; and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of brutal injustice and shameful humiliation and yet out of a bottomless vitality our people continue to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery 16
could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail.” The March on Washington The major civil rights organizations, spearheaded by A. Philip Randolph, the venerable labor leader who influenced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to desegregate the armed forces and to establish a Fair Employment Practices Committee to monitor job opportunities in industries with government contracts, came together for a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, The March on Washington did not enjoy full support. The labor movement as represented by the AFL-CIO was lukewarm toward the March. It was only the United Auto Workers organized in Detroit in 1935 that fully supported the March. It was one of few labor unions to organize African Americans. The National Baptist Convention, the largest Black organization in the U.S., did not support the March. Its conservative leader, the Rev. Joseph H. Jackson, was cool to the civil rights movement and church involvement in secular THE SPHINX
affairs. The Kennedy Administration was concerned about lawlessness given the large number of African Americans expected to descend on the nation’s capital. The District of Columbia banned the sale of liquor for the day before and the day of the march. The Pentagon stationed 4,000 soldiers at nearby bases with helicopters. 6,000 police, firefighters, and military were deployed for possible riot duty. Local jails prepared to house lawbreakers. Given Bro. Dr. King’s celebrated eloquence, he was placed last on the program. Although the day had been long, hot, and humid, Bro. Dr. King held the rapt attention of the demonstrators. Most commentary on the March today focuses on Dr. King’s speech, especially the second half, when he departed from his prepared remarks and used the peroration, “I Have a Dream.” The title of the speech, however, was “Normalcy Never Again.” He described African Americans as living “… on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” He indicated that African Americans and their allies had come to the nation’s capital on the hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation to cash a check, a promissory note guaranteed to all Americans through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He explained that: “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’.” But he argued that African Americans refused to believe that the bank of justice was bankrupt and that there were insufficient funds in the nation’ s great vault of opportunity. He cautioned America about the Fierce Urgency of Now. And warned that there would be neither rest nor tranquility until African Americans enjoyed their rights as citizens of the United States of America. Bro. Dr. King believed that African Americans had
MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
a moral and personal responsibility to help “uplift downtrodden humanity.” Ironically, the major newspapers did not report on Bro. Dr. King’s speech the day after the March on Washington. Instead, they wrote about the orderliness of the crowd, the largest ever to gather on the National Mall, and the absence of violence. It would be later that they would begin to define him through the phrase, “I Have a Dream,” which has now become synonymous with the March on Washington and definitive of Bro. Dr. King’s life and work. The following year, Bro. Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 1964, which further locked his public image into a proponent of the “American Dream” that all men are created equal and would one day sit together at the table of brotherhood. An Inconvenient Hero Once Bro. Dr. King moved to international issues such as apartheid in South Africa and the War in Vietnam, and a more incisive critique of poverty in America, much of the earlier affection and support for him fell away even among allies in the Civil Rights Movement. He became in the words of historian Vincent Harding “An Inconvenient Hero.” And today, after his assassination on April 4, 1968 many of us have shorn him of his role in speaking truth to power, and in the words of Jewel Callis, his devotion “…to the struggle for the inalienable rights of all men in all societies; to the building of leadership of the oppressed that should place service before self.” S
BY BROTHER MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-two million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award in behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to Editor's note: On December 10, 1964 in Oslow, Norway, Brother Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He establish a reign of freedom and a rule of was the fourteenth American, the third Black and the youngest man justice. I am mindful that only yesterday (35 years old) to be honored. Brother King, who accepted the award in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement and for all men who “loved” crying out for brotherhood, were answered peace and brotherhood,” pledged the entire prize grant of $54,000 be with fire hoses, snarling dogs, and even donated to the movement. death . 1 am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi. young nonviolence is the answer to the crucial people seeking to secure the right to vote were political and moral question of our time-the brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday need for man to overcome oppression and more than forty houses of worship in the State violence without resorting to violence and of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned oppression. Civilization and violence are because they offered a sanctuary to those who antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United would not accept segregation. I am mindful States, following the people of India, have that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile my people and chains them to the lowest rung passivity, but a powerful moral force which of the economic ladder. makes for social transformation. Sooner or Therefore, I must ask why this prize is later, all the people of the world will have to awarded to a movement which is beleagured discover a way to live together in peace, and and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy movement which has not won the very peace into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is and brotherhood, which is the essence of the to be achieved, man must evolve for all human Nobel Prize. conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of After contemplation, I conclude that this such a method is love. award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hall of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. l believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have
torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." l still believe that We shall overcome. This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. Jt will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with lowhovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born. S
TEXT TO GIVE
MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
BY BROTHER MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL
cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial â€œoutside agitatorâ€? idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider. You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would not hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no other alternative. IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, selfpurification, and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly
record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of them, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in goodfaith negotiation. Then came the opportunity last September to talk with some of the leaders of the economic community. In these negotiating sessions certain promises were made by the merchants, such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the stores. On the basis of these promises, Reverend Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstration. As the weeks and months unfolded, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. As in so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. So we had no alternative except that of preparing for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national community. We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved. So we decided to go through a process of self-purification. We started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions, â€œAre THE SPHINX
you able to accept blows without retaliating?” and “Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” We decided to set our direct-action program around the Easter season, realizing that, with exception of Christmas, this was the largest shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this was the best time to bring pressure on the merchants for the needed changes. Then it occurred to us that the March election was ahead, and so we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that Mr. Conner was in the runoff, we decided again to postpone action so that the demonstration could not be used to cloud the issues. At this time we agreed to begin our nonviolent witness the day after the runoff.
in this community need. After this we felt that direct action could be delayed no longer. You may well ask, “Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation
This reveals that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action. We, too, wanted to see Mr. Conner defeated, so we went through postponement after postponement to aid MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and
brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue. One of the basic points in your statement is that our acts are untimely. Some have asked, “Why didn’t you give the new administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this inquiry is that the new administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one before it acts. We will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Mr. Boutwell will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is much more articulate and gentle than Mr. Conner, they are both segregationists, dedicated to the task of maintaining the status quo. The hope I see in Mr. Boutwell is that he will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive
resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from the devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was “well timed” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “wait.” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “wait” has almost always meant “never.” It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our Godgiven and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. S
BY BROTHER MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
I HAVE A DREAM MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
n a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give
us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will THE SPHINX
have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. **We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”** We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”1 I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. S
We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
BY BROTHER HENRY A. STEWART
MLK50 COMMEMORATION ATTRACTS THOUSANDS TO MEMPHIS THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM AT THE LORRAINE MOTEL OFFERS REFLECTIVE BACKDROP
n April 4, 2018, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the rest of the world turned its sights toward Memphis, Tennessee to observe the tragic event that occurred 50 years prior. Our nation’s peaceful drum major for justice, Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered outside room 306 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel as the result of a sniper’s bullet. The motel and the boarding house
across the street from where the assassin concealed himself are now part of the National Civil Rights Museum and the epicenter for MLK50 events. As the nation paused to reflect and remember his life and legacy, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. took time to honor our brother while considering the work that is still needed to bring the dream of justice and equality a reality.
More than 7,000 visitors gathered in downtown Memphis for the commemoration activities. A recreation of the legendary “I AM A MAN” photo was staged on the north end of Beale Street. Others gathered for the march in which Martin Luther King III, his wife, Arndrea, and daughter Yolanda Renee marched arm in arm with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. James Lawson, AFSCME president Lee Saunders Bishop Charles Blake, actors Chris Tucker and Glynn Turman, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Following the march, hundreds of spectators from all walks of life gathered around the museum’s stage to listen to speeches and calls to action from Civil Rights icons, pastors, MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
union and community leaders, and activists to renew our commitment to battle oppression in all its forms. Among them, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. General President Everett B. Ward, also delivered a rousing speech. In addition, celebrities and performers Common, Goapele, and Sheila E., also took the stage throughout the morning. In a surprise performance, singer Al Green also hit the stage. After the march, a red and white wreath was dropped from the balcony at 6:01 p.m., in conjunction with a moment of silence and the ringing of the 120-year-old church bell from Clayborn Temple in Memphis. S 31
BY BROTHER ERIC CHRISTOPHER WEBB
IN OBSERVANCE OF KING Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. convenes 50th Commemorative Observance and Omega Service
o commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of our Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Fraternity held its official 50th Commemorative Observance and Omega Service in his honor in at the Memphis Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tennessee on Saturday, April 7. The brainchild of 29th General President Milton Carver Davis, the special program, with General President Everett B. Ward presiding, included remarks from Southern Region Vice President Brother Kelsing Rushing, Southern Region Assistant Vice President Brother Nicholas Collins and National Historian Brother Dr. Robert L. Harris, Jr., as well as an organ prelude by Brother David Oliver, a visual and musical interlude entitled, Freedom Songs and Music of the Civil Rights Movement with National Chaplain Reverend Brother Jonathan Augustine, who served as presiding liturgist and Reverend Brother Dr. Aurelio D. Givens who served as co-liturgist for the Omega Service Rite. The highlight of the event gathered all the Fraternity’s living past general presidents to offer words of tribute regarding King’s life and legacy, including 25th General President James R. Williams who offered “Excerpts from the Wisdom of Dr. King;” 27th General President Charles C. Teamer, Sr. highlighted
Dr. King’s brilliance in “The Making of a Scholar;” 30th General President Adrian Wallace discussed “Martin Luther King, Jr. – Servant Leader;” 31st General President Harry E. Johnson spoke about “The Impact of the King National Memorial;” Darryl R. THE SPHINX
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Matthews, Sr. challenged brothers with his speech about “A Drum Major for Justice;” 34th General President Mark Tillman discussed “Transcending Boundaries;” while MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
29th General President Davis recounted an emotional, “Personal Encounter” with Dr. King and its impact on his life.
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General President Brother Dr. Everett B. Ward: "This afternoon we gather in Alpha tradition within the City of Memphis to celebrate the unmatched legacy of Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Omega service of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity is the ritual induction into our Omega Chapter. The Omega Service in Alpha Phi Alpha is a public celebration of an Alpha man whose life well-lived in scholarship, leadership, and service. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain top and I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. Farewell dear brother, thy good name will revere."
National Historian Brother Dr. Robert L. Harris, Jr.: "He helped to close the gap between promulgation of lofty ideals, of freedom, justice, and equality…and the practice of freedom, justice, and equality. He added a new dimension to the idea of America as a land of opportunity, the shining city on a hill would become more inclusive and not bar anyone because of race, religion, or creed. His faith in America would open the country to embrace difference and to inspire Americans to seek an even more Perfect Union and to inspire Americans uh, to accept all of God’s children."
Past General President Brother James R. Williams: "Every day we see some controversy flowing through the White House in Washington. And if you want to teach a lesson or if you want to learn some reading about Martin certainly would be helpful because he taught the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. And we should not get that, forget that, we must not forget that. Our lives begin to end the day we come silent, we become silent about things that matter."
Past General President Brother Charles C. Teamer, Sr.: "We praise the Lord God for sending us a man of peace who resisted tyranny, a man of non-violence who fought for liberty, a man of God who walked for people. Thank you Lord for Martin Luther King, Jr. who inspired us all with his dream, who walked into our lives and our hearts with his marches for justice, who demanded freedom from courage, with courage in the face of grave danger. Thank you Lord for his noble legacy to continue this journey to this land here on earth and life for all people in the name of all Alpha Phi Alpha men, we re-dedicate ourselves in your name. Amen." 34
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Past General President Brother Adrian Wallace: "Someone said you cannot lead us if you don’t serve us. You cannot serve us if you don’t love us. We as men of Alpha understand that for the true servant leader, our greatest interest always lies outside of ourselves. Dr. King preached a gospel of love, lived the life of service, and sought the salvation for the soul of a nation. His life was one of leadership based on service and filled with love for all mankind."
Past General President Brother Harry E. Johnson, Sr.: "…the men who understand and understood that in building a memorial to Dr. King was not for ourselves but it was for everybody else. You see, understanding, knowing, and believing that these men who sit before you and those who had the vision to build a memorial like many things that Alpha Phi Alpha has done in the past, it was never about us but it was for somebody else. That’s the beauty of the jewels when they created this fraternity. They could have taken over everything but they said no, we need to have a Beta Chapter and other chapters. …Tell me how many people of color came up with a concept to come up with a memorial that stands taller than almost anything in Washington, DC, and then get turned down. Tell me how many people of color had the strength to carry on when somebody else said you can’t carry on. It was Alpha men who honored Dr. King."
Past General President Brother Darryl R. Matthews, Sr.: "On behalf of the millions of hashtag social media activists, on behalf of the America that loves to come together every year for the past fifty years since you left us, I apologize. We have talked about ad infinitum the dream you shared with us but we have failed in our responsibility to create the companion plan. We have crossed the Edmond Pettus Bridge numeral times only to watch Selma’s continuous deterioration and economic decline. I say to you that we must craft a plan that calls for us to accumulate capital. We must rebuild and re-establish our own neighborhood banks and credit unions. We have to fund the development of our own communities and ownership of the businesses to sustain us. We don’t need just symbolic hashtag social activism but strategic and measurable goals. We’ve heard the plan, we’ve heard the dream, now where’s the plan. Since you lost your life fighting for the cause, our cause, we need to identify fearless leadership not feckless leadership to carry it forward. We need new drum majors and it is your calling. It is your duty for we are Alpha Phi Alpha." MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
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Past General President Brother Mark Tillman: "Dr. King challenged America to not go down a long, dark, and shameful corridor with a lack of compassion, morality, and sight. He was criticized and abandoned by many of, by man for his position to the Vietnam War, but our brother was not afraid to challenge the world and our status within in. Dr. King transcended himself in a manner that invokes an idealism that still reverberates today...for us to live a dream that all men are created equal. And to do so with non-violent, thoughtful approaches. His fortitude speaks to the resilience of all humanity that transcends borders, continents, and culture. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ingrained in us that we live because we rise above our own agenda."
Past General President Brother Milton C. Davis: "To this day, I do not know how we got close enough that I had the chance to reach out and ask Dr. King please sign my program. King looked at us, he reached out and took the program. He requested a pen which somebody gave to him and he wrote across the front of our program, “Best wishes, Martin Luther King, Jr.” He smiled at us, he entered his car and was driven away. My brother and I stood there frozen. On that day Dr. King was speaking but for those few seconds he was speaking to us. Those few seconds helped to transform our lives. Although he did not speak these words to us, he conveyed through his actions the same message which in my mind’s eye was: I see you young men, you’re gonna be all right and I wish you well. He was rushing on because he was consumed with the will of God, consumed by history, and consumed in his destiny. Dr. King gave to my brother and to me that which we are all vested to confer. We can all give to another individual a word of encouragement. A word of encouragement is enormous, it is transformational. Any successful person can tell you they were encouraged by their families, their friends, coaches, teachers, pastors, fraternity, and others. The power of a word of encouragement has the value of a king’s ransom." S
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MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
BY LIONEL H. NEWSOM, 22 ND GENERAL PRESIDENT
Eulogy to Brother Martin Luther King, Jr.
any years ago a great lawyer and later a greater Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote a revealing statement entitled “Skylight Lives and Intellects.” He wrote, ‘’There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects and threestory intellects with skylights.” “All fact collectors, who have no aim beyond their facts, are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason and generalize using the labors of the fact collectors as well as their 0wn. Threestory men idealize, imagine, predict: Their best illumination comes from above, through skylight.” Today, I add a four-story man, one who was a skyscraper intellect. He is the one who can imagine, predict and idealize. But over and beyond all these abilities or should we say intellects, he uses all of these attributes for the good of all mankind; for the good of both black men and white men, black girls and boys and white girls and boys, he does these things for both Christians and Jews, for sinners and as well as for believers, for the learned and the unlearned alike, for the college graduate and for the high school dropout, for the militant and the non-militant, for the violent and the nonviolent because in him we found a perfect symphony of love, a poem of courage and no
greater love for the human race. For in our beloved brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., was a man with a four-story intellect with a skyscraper mind; he had a direct line to God. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a man for all seasons, but he was a man for all centuries, he was at his eloquent best with words, he allowed phrases of beauty to roll from his lips in rhyming couplets. Our Brother always stood above the crowd, at his tallest as a spiritual leader, a giant as a minister, a master teacher and a noble disciple of nonviolence. He stood alone, without a peer. He is matchless. He is indispensable. He is irreplaceable. While he may prove to be greater in death than in life, I do not believe it. Although he is gone from us and no man can bring him back, I would if I could, we must go from this place as Alpha men and live out his precepts of nonviolence dedicating ourselves to help downtrodden humanity. If we desert him now and disobey his teachings, we become hypocrites of the highest order. We, therefore, must pledge ourselves and our lives to hold ever aloft his noble ideals and aims and prove to the world that his life shall not have been given in vain. Reprinted from The Sphinx Fall 1968, Volume 54.
BY THE REVEREND BRO. JONATHAN C. AUGUSTINE, J.D., M.DIV.*
Babylon, Birmingham, and Black Lives Matter A REFLECTIVE ESSAY ON THE LIVING LEGACY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.+ Scriptural Reference King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
8 Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good.[a] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.[b] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” —Daniel 3:1-18 (NRSV) Introduction April 4, 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (“King”), one of Alpha Phi Alpha’s most notable brothers. While many will commemorate King’s death with celebrations of his life, focusing on some of his most famous works, I believe his most important work, in terms of its contemporary relevance, was Letter From Birmingham Jail, written after his April 1963 arrest in Birmingham, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Movement (“the Movement”). As a 20th century treatise on civil disobedience, 40
King’s theologically grounded letter became a lynchpin of the Movement. Indeed, I believe the sociopolitical circumstances leading to King’s arrest in Birmingham closely parallel the sociopolitical circumstances in Daniel 3:1–18 (“the Scripture”). Accordingly, this Essay explores contextual similarities between Letter From Birmingham Jail and the famed story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego (“the Hebrews”) being thrown into the fiery furnace, at the order of King Nebuchadnezzar, during the Babylonian Exile (“the Exile”). Nebuchadnezzar’s role, in the Daniel 3, is that of the state. After capturing and subjugating the Hebrews, he appointed them to governmental positions, while simultaneously oppressing them. Moreover, in constructing the golden deity and ordering that everyone bow down to worship it, Nebuchadnezzar created a form of theocracy to which the Hebrews acted out their unequivocal objection. Their subsequent civil disobedience provides a framework for understanding the theology behind King’s Good Friday arrest, Easter weekend incarceration, and authorship of Letter From Birmingham Jail. Consequently, The Hebrews’ civil disobedience set a foundation for King’s leadership in the Movement, as well as its suffering servant theology, popularly demonstrated in the form of civil disobedience. I also believe King’s theological influences remain relevant today, as evident in the Black Lives Matter Movement. The Exile and the Movement: Highlighting the Scripture’s Contextual Similarity Daniel is categorized as apocalyptic, and as having two parts, each corresponding to a different literary genre. The first part, chapters 1-6, are a collection of stories making heroic role models of faithful Jews facing THE SPHINX
persecution. The second part, chapters 7-12, are visions promising Jewish deliverance in a new kingdom. The narratives in chapters 1–6 occur during the Exile, a time when civil disobedience was occasioned by the oppressive conditions under which Jews lived in Babylon, similar to the oppressive conditions under which Blacks lived in the South. Accordingly, the Scripture encourages nonviolent resistance in breaking the laws of the land that do not comport with the moral laws of God. Similarly, King’s civil disobedience— especially his willingness to be incarcerated in Birmingham on Good Friday in 1963— resulted from cultural oppression. In the face of such oppression, however, King’s leadership affirmed the moral duty he believed Judeo-Christian objectors had to deliberately disobey society’s unjust laws. Accordingly, civil disobedience in the Movement, as in Daniel 3:1–18, was about using moral authority to overcome the injustices of culturally oppressive circumstances. Both King and the Hebrews were willing to accept potentially fatal consequences, rather than conform to morally unjust laws. This “martyrdom theology,” mandating acceptance of consequences rather compliance with state-sponsored immorality, directly connects the Hebrews in the Exile with King in the Movement. Further, the same spirit of civil disobedience that led to King’s theologicallybased rejection of unjust laws in Birmingham is the same spirit of civil disobedience that led to the Hebrews’ rejection of Nebuchadnezzar’s order in Babylon. It also undergirded other popular examples of the Movement’s suffering servant theology, manifesting as civil disobedience, including Rosa Parks’ rejection of the state-imposed inferiority system of segregation in the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955) and the Bloody Sunday marcher’s MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
rejection of second-class citizenship as they marched across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma (1965). Applying the Scripture to King in Birmingham and the Black Lives Matter Movement of Today Although Daniel’s genre is apocalyptic, the Scripture is arguably a court tale encouraging religious fidelity. Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image was set in a public plain, in the Babylonian province, under a quasiconsolidated form of church and state. Nebuchadnezzar’s all-inclusive command and pronounced consequences were an admonishment for everyone to bow in submission to the gold image, where the penalty of civil disobedience was being thrown into a blazing furnace. Such hegemonic imperialism was an affront to the ethnic heterogeneity in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, just as the racial subjugation Blacks suffered under segregationists like Birmingham’s Eugene “Bull” Connor was an affront to twentieth century human dignity. The Scripture’s climax, again using literary repetition, restates Nebuchadnezzar’s command, while also emphasizing the consequences of non-compliance for the Hebrews, in much the same way consequences were expressly made known to dissident activists in the Movement. In the midst of Nebuchadnezzar’s rage, the drama plateaued when the Hebrews’ suffering servant theological fidelity undergirded their refusal to follow an “unjust law.” Instead, just as King did in Birmingham, the Hebrews readily accepted the consequences of civil disobedience. Considering its contemporary application, therefore, this plateau is arguably the Scripture’s most socio-politically relevant part. Indeed, faith in divine power undergirded both Jewish resistance in the 41
remains. This Essay explores the biblical basis of King’s leadership in the Movement, at the intersection of evangelical liberalism and civil disobedience, where a suffering servant theology undergird the use of civil disobedience.
Exile and Black resistance in the Movement. Moreover, it was arguably also the genesis of the Black Lives Matter Movement of today.
With the famed story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego demonstrating a theologically-based form of civil disobedience, a suffering servant theology preempts individual concern with communal focus when morality compels nonconformity. This same theological framework was the basis of King’s civil disobedience in Birmingham and his leadership throughout the Movement. Moreover, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, this example of martyrdom theology—finding redemption in suffering for a moral cause—was the very essence of the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. Moreover, King’s legacy endures and his influence continues to manifest in contemporary social movements, like Black Lives Matter, even fifty years after his untimely assignation. S
Conclusion Fifty years after King’s death, as America pauses to reflect on some of his most significant accomplishments, King’s legacy 42
SAVE THE DATE O BY BROTHER ERIC CHRISTOPHER WEBB
THE MEMORIALIZATION OF BROTHER DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. ver the years, the legacy, message and contributions of Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has not only been recognized in America, but worldwide.
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So much so, that a federal holiday honors him as well as monuments, streets, murals and stamps bear his name or image likely more than any other American citizen.
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Nearly four years after U.S. Congressman John Conyers and U.S. Senator Brother Edward Brooke first introduced a bill to make Brother King’s birthday a national holiday in 1979, President Ronald Reagan, who had initially opposed the measure, signed a bill by Congresswoman Katie Hall to create a federal holiday honoring him. The holiday was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, while not every U.S, state observed the holiday at the state level until 1991. The holiday is now recognized a National Day of Service, where Americans are challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of King. In Washington, D.C., Brother King is the only non-U.S. President with a monument on the National Mall, which is the result of an early effort of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and statues honoring him are a common feature in cities across the country, and increasingly, around the world. “The King Memorial is envisioned as a quiet and peaceful space,” wrote Alpha’s 31st General President Harry E. Johnson, the president and chief executive officer of the memorial foundation, in a letter posted on the memorial’s website. “Yet drawing from Dr. King’s speeches and using his own rich language, the King Memorial will almost certainly change the heart of every person who visits. Against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, with stunning views of the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, the Memorial will be a public sanctuary where future generations of Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, can come to honor Dr. King.” In London, England, a statue, located on the Great West Door of the famous Gothic 44
church, Westminster Abbey, features the slain civil rights icon wearing a ministerial robe with his outstretched hand welcoming a little girl crouched at his feet. That statue is among nine others honoring 20th-century Christian martyrs, including Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia and Janani Luwum, former archbishop of Uganda. In 2017, a statue, his most recent and long overdue monument, was unveiled at the Georgia State Capitol in King’s Atlanta hometown. Ironically, the state Capitol grounds are dominated by the figures from Georgia’s Confederate and segregationist past. And as of 2006, that same state had the most streets named after him – 105. Over all, the number of streets named after him is increasing every year, with about 70% of them in Southern states such as Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and of course, Georgia. In 2006, there were only 11 states in the country without a street named after him, including Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont, East Carolina University reported. Currently, more than 900 streets in more than 730 cities and 41 states, in addition to Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, bear his name, and are mostly densely clustered in the southeastern United States. Sadly, many of those streets stand in St. Louis, Houston, Milwaukee, and in other major cities as a symbol of urban decay with shuttered storefronts, open-air drug markets, liquor stores, and check-cashing locations. However, a movement is afoot to restore those areas as a source of inspiration and pride. THE SPHINX
“It’s a national problem,” said Melvin White, the founder of a non-profit trying to restore these areas. White was quoted in the 2014 Associated Press story regarding the issue. “Dr. King would be turning over in his grave.” In addition, 13 cities also have freeways named after Dr. King. They include: Staten Island, New York; Jacksonville Florida; Norfolk, Virginia; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Akron, Ohio; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Fort Worth, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colorado; San Diego, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Bucks County); and Camden, New Jersey. Worldwide, several countries have also recognized Brother King, similarly, including Italy, Israel, Brazil and Senegal. In America’s urban cities, murals have also been a prevalent way to memorialize and honor Dr. King such as in Philadelphia, multiple sites in Los Angeles, Harlem, Brooklyn, Detroit, and Chicago. Since the 1970s, photographer Camilo Jose Vergara has documented these hand-painted images of the slain civil rights icon. “The sign painters and amateur artists who create these portraits use well-known photographs—such as the one of him as a prisoner seen through the bars of a Birmingham jail—on which to model their subject,” he said in a City lab article. “However, local artists don’t always produce an accurate likeness. It is not uncommon for Dr. King to look Latino, Native American, or even Asian.” Some picture King with other prominent Black leaders and figures, such as Muhammad Ali, Eldridge Cleaver, Duke Ellington Malcolm MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
X, others are representative of where the mural was painted, such as in South Los Angeles with Dr. King, the American flag and eagle on one side and the Basilica de Guadalupe (in Mexico City) and the Virgin Guadalupe behind on the other side. In South Central Los Angeles, a mural shows King reaching out for help, a look of anguish on his face. In the background is a picture the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where he was murdered in 1968. Another way Brother King has been honored is on postage stamps. Ironically, Mexico was the first Western country to honor him on a postage stamp. In the United States, two Martin Luther King Jr. stamps were released as part of the Black Heritage Stamp Series. The first one was a 15-cent stamp issued on January 13, 1979, and the second, a 33-cent stamp, was issued on September 17, 1999. Over the years, several countries have also issued postage stamps featuring Brother King’s likeness, including Togo, India, Paraguay, Samoa Islands, Ghana, Cuba, Liberia, Virginia Islands, Republic of the Congo, multiple territories of the United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Kenya, Angola, Yemen, and Turks & Caicos Islands. Several other countries had also followed suit with postage stamps in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1964, including Central African Republic, Mozambique, Guinea, Togo, Guinea Bissau, Maldives, Solomon Islands, Montserrat and Chad. S
BY BROTHER ROBERT L. HARRIS, JR., NATIONAL HISTORIAN
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.: The Initiator, the Catalyst, the Driving Force behind the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial
n idea initially proposed by six members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (George Sealy, Alfred Bailey, John Harvey, Oscar Little, Eddie Madison, and Harold Navy) in 1983 blossomed into an unprecedented achievement, a memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., an area preserved for
honoring U.S. Presidents and for remembering war veterans. Now a man of peace, a symbol of hope, the first non-president, and an African American stands tall in the pantheon of U.S. heroes. Soon after the assassination of Brother Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Representatives John Conyers and Shirley Chisholm in the House THE SPHINX
and Brother Edward W. Brooke in the Senate introduced legislation to establish a national holiday in honor of Dr. King. After 15 years of struggle, President Ronald Reagan, on November 2, 1983, signed legislation creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. King. Brother Sealy and his wife, Pauline, talked about the need for a memorial to Dr. King in the nation’s capital so that the millions of visitors, especially school children, would remember him and his tremendous accomplishments in helping to change the United States, to inspire the nation to live up to its creed of freedom, justice, and equality, and to stand as an example to the world.
Julian C. Dixon, a Democratic Congressman from California (1978-2000), led the fight in Congress to secure legislation for the King Memorial. Republican Representative Constance A. Morella from Maryland, Democratic Senator Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland, and Republican Senator John W. Warner of Virginia pushed the legislation to build a memorial, but without specifying its location. President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law on November 12, 1996, and informed 29th General President Milton C. Davis of the authorization for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to raise funds and to manage the process for building a memorial.
Brother Sealy discussed this idea with Brothers Bailey, Harvey, Little, Madison, and Navy. They determined that Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., in which Dr. King was initiated as a Brother on January 22, 1952, was the organization with the capacity, commitment, and network to achieve such a huge undertaking. They presented the idea to the Fraternity’s Board of Directors under the leadership of 26th General President Ozell Sutton in 1984. The Board approved it, and 27th General President Charles C. Teamer, Sr. guided it through the General Convention in 1985. To build such a memorial in Washington, D.C. required legislation signed into law by the U.S. President. For 11 years, under the administrations of General Presidents Charles C. Teamer, Sr., Henry Ponder, and Milton C. Davis, Alpha Phi Alpha lobbied Congress for authorization to raise the necessary funds and to build a memorial to Dr. King in Washington, D.C.
Once the legislation was in place, the work of site selection, design, and approval by the National Park Service, the Capital Memorial Commission, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the Commission on Fine Arts, could fundraising begin. 30th General President Adrian L. Wallace put in place a project management team with Brother John Carter at the helm. Brother Carter, a retired Vice President of Corporate Resources for BellSouth, and Brother Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., an architect and Director of Research for the American Institute of Architects, pushed for Congressional designation of Area I as the location for the memorial. On July 16, 1998, Congress approved Public Law 105-201 with permission to build the memorial in Area I, the most prestigious area on the National Mall. After several less desirable locations were suggested, Brothers Carter and Jackson, had successfully persuaded the authorizing agencies to approve the tidal basin site on which the memorial now stands.
At regional and national conventions, Brothers generously contributed seed money to move the project forward. Brothers Bailey and Sealy used political connections to garner bipartisan support in Congress. Brother MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
The Fraternity’s 30th General President Wallace rallied the Brotherhood to support this immense undertaking. He cautioned that “failure was not an option.” The Internal 47
Fundraising Committee headed by Brother Attorney Melvin White set goals for Brothers, Chapters, and Regions. 25th General President James R. Williams led the way with an initial $15,000 contribution from Eta Tau Lambda Chapter in Akron, Ohio, which by the year 2000 had contributed a $100,000 to the project. Brother Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr. coordinated the design competition with an international panel of experts, who reviewed some 900 entries from around the globe before the Roma Design Group of San Francisco was selected. On September 13, 2000, the winning design was unveiled on at a gala event in Washington, D.C., where Mrs. Coretta Scott King expressed her pleasure with the project and the design during her address. “I thank my husband’s Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, which led the 15-year effort to bring this memorial to this point …,” she stated. The Tommy Hilfiger Foundation, headed by Brother Guy Vickers, with the support of Tommy Hilfiger and CEO Joel Horowitz, sponsored the unveiling while The General Motors Foundation, headed by Brother Roderick Gillum, became a major sponsor of the memorial. In addition, Brother Richard W. Marshall, from General Motors, became the Chief Financial Officer of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation. The Fraternity’s 31st General President Harry E. Johnson, Sr., who would later become the President and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Foundation, moved the project from the internal fundraising phase to the public phase. With still work to be done within Alpha, General President Johnson appointed Brother Frank Russell, Jr. as chair of the Internal Fundraising Committee with the charge to show the nation that we lead by example. General President Johnson 48
organized an office in Washington, D.C. and brought together celebrity, corporate, foundation, and political support to raise the necessary $100 million to build the memorial – a figure later revised to $120 million due to National Park Service requirements. The Fraternity’s 32nd General President Darryl R. Matthews, Sr. made completion of the memorial a centerpiece of the centennial celebration for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He highlighted the memorial during the centennial convention in Washington, D.C., held a program during the convention at the site of the memorial to remind the Brotherhood of the urgency to complete the project, and presided over a star-studded groundbreaking ceremony on November 13, 2006 attended by, among others, President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton. The Fraternity’s 33rd General President Herman “Skip” Mason committed to making dedication of the King Memorial an historic and unforgettable occasion to mark the greatest undertaking to date for the Fraternity. He organized activities, ceremonies, and events to impress upon the Brotherhood, the Nation, and the World the momentous achievement of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. On October 16, 2011, the first African American President, Barack Obama, dedicated the King Memorial. We served as the initiator, the catalyst, the driving force to preserve the legacy and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a citizen of the world, who belongs to the ages, and whose example and accomplishments will inspire generations who visit the Washington, D.C. National Memorial. S
By Brother Vic Carter
ENDURING LESSONS FROM KING Dateline: April 4, 1968 - Radford, VA.
was 10-years old and my sister, Karan, and I were playing outside in the front yard of our small home at 1325 Staples Street. It was a warm Spring day and we wanted to take advantage of every possible moment. My mother, Sybil Carter, swung open the front door of our white clapboard house and called to us, ordering us to come inside. As we approached we heard crying from inside and knew immediately that something terrible had happened. My mother “did hair” and one of her customers, Mrs. Esterline Coles, sat with shoulders wrapped in a towel and her hair barely pressed. They were in the living room along with my three other sisters and they were glued to the small black and white television MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
as news anchor Walter Cronkite delivered the stunning news: “Dr. Martin Luther King, the Apostle of Non-Violence, has been shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee. Police have issued an All Points Bulletin for a well-dressed, young white man seen running from the scene. Police also reportedly chased and fired on a radio equipped car containing two white men. Dr. King was standing on the balcony of his second floor hotel room tonight, when according to a companion, a shot was fired from across the street. In the friend’s words, ‘the bullet exploded in his face.’”
“Oh my Lord!” My mother said. “What is poor Coretta gonna do with all those children?” I looked up from the floor where I sat and watched as she gazed around the room at her brood of five children. She stopped briefly making eye contact with me, and imagined how, the now widow, was going to make it. I didn’t sleep well that night. The words of the veteran newsman stuck in my head and the pictures of the violence that had erupted across the country made me fear that the same would happen in our little town. At age 10, it was difficult to comprehend the magnitude of what was happening since the name Martin Luther King was often heard in our home; usually accompanied by words like hope change and one day. Integration was only a couple years old in our predominately white city and racial tensions remained. An uneasiness existed from the schools to the neighborhoods. From that moment on, this little black boy from a small southern town could not have possibly predicted what his life now would be like. Nor did he know that Dr. King’s story would take on tremendous personal meaning and have such a profound impact on his future. I lived through the turbulent 60’s –a decade marred by violence which framed the painful transformation of America. This boy would go on to college and have civil rights struggles of his own, only to find himself eventually in Atlanta, Georgia in the company of those leaders who shaped and orchestrated “The Movement.” These were the very same people he watched on television in countless news conferences and interviews extolling the works and words of Martin. They talked of that better day and what changes needed to be made to bring about equality and justice for the least of these Americans and here I was, 50
face-to-face with the history makers - a long way from Staples Street. The men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. were ever present in the Civil Rights Movement and they made sure that anyone they came in contact with, understood the context, and learned the lessons of those who were on the front lines. “A Charge to Keep” It has been 50 years since the death of a man who greatly influenced the enactment of laws offering various protections for a people. But yet in those 50 years, America has not kept pace with ‘the Dream.’ It is still riddled with the vestiges of what Martin fought against. Voting rights continue to be threatened as new laws are passed to have a chilling effect on those who desire to vote. America’s landscape is dotted by city schools that remain primarily one race or another - and there are equitable differences that leave a child’s education hanging in the balance. People are still being profiled or denied access when they attempt to shop in stores. Some law enforcements charged with a mandate to protect and serve stop certain citizens without cause and corrupt the badge and diminish trust. Some people have little to no access to health care and are deprived of life saving treatments. That same population are still judged by the color of their skin and the content of their character is never taken into consideration. People are still told where to go, what to buy, where to live, and whom to love. So was it worth it? For some, ‘the Dream’ is a nightmare from which they cannot wake.
ANDREW YOUNG INITIATED MAY 15, 1950 – BETA CHAPTER LIFE MEMBER #4981
“We think it is complicated to change the world. Change comes little by little. Nothing worthwhile can happen in one generation.” In early 1961, Brother Andrew Jackson Young was working for the National Council of Churches in New York. While there, his wife Jean was finishing her master’s degree and was expecting their third child. Both were children of the South and were keenly aware of the struggle for equality. On television, they had been watching the sit-ins at lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. They had heard the stories and seen the faces, including that of John Lewis, now a member of Congress representing the 5th Congressional district, which includes Atlanta. Those sit-ins in Nashville lasted for two months, three weeks and six days. What the young couple saw disturbed them and they talked about what they could do. Jean was convinced that her husband’s boyish looking face and his mind of a seasoned old preacher, had something to offer in bringing about change. She convinced him to quit his job and to find a place to put his natural talents to work.
Jean once again called the shots and said, “I am moving back to my mother’s and by the time I get settled, the Lord will have guided you.” “Guess where the Lord landed me?,” he said. “On Auburn Avenue across the hall from Martin Luther King. I did not want to be a part of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). He was living in the Butler Street YMCA just across the street from the SCLC headquarters. Dora McDonald, Dr. King’s secretary, said you are here in Atlanta and your wife is in Alabama and if you don’t have something to do, you’re gonna get in trouble in Atlanta.”1
1 Word of Faith True Talk - Andrew Young
Andrew said to his wife, “What will I do for a job?” She replied, “I don’t know, but quit this one, and we’ll see where the Lord leads us.” No money, no job, no housing, no clue what was going to happen next. They moved to Tennessee where he went to work for a school, which didn’t last because of segregation and the slow integration of other schools.
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“Well how can I help?” McDonald said, “You can help me with Dr. King’s mail.” So I said, “Sure, I’d be glad to try.” And she gave me a great big cardboard box packed with letters of people writing to him. So while my wife was recovering and I was looking for a house, I started answering Dr. King’s mail. And he liked my answers. And one thing led to another and next thing you know I was traveling with him and doing research for him and just being an intellectual flunky. Whatever he needed; if I had to look up something, or go get his clothes from the cleaners, or if I had to buy him some barbecue from Aleck’s Barbecue Heaven. He would work on his speeches and work late at night and the way he kept himself awake was by going to Aleck’s Barbecue on Hunter Street right next to Ralph Abernathy’s Church. He’d eat barbecue and then he couldn’t go to sleep and he would stay up and he couldn’t lay down. But that’s the way he would stay awake to do his writing. So, all of Martin’s great speeches were inspired by some greasy barbecue that kept him awake!” Over several years, the relationship between Andrew Young and Martin Luther King, Jr. grew and their presence in each other’s lives became essential. They needed each other. They were both young men who faced life’s everyday challenges of maintaining a job, caring for a family, leading a ministry, facilitating a movement and maintaining a faith that everything would work out. Today, Andrew Young reminisces over 50 plus years and chooses to provide perspective and balance in the lessons learned and shared from his experiences with Brother King. Through his stories today he gives us examples of how they endured and coped with the incredible pressure, fear, and uncertainty of the movement. 52
“I think it was a way of dealing with death because remember by the time he was bombed when he was 26. He was put in jail, stabbed when he was 27. He was 29 when they sued him and took all of his property and he came back to Atlanta because Daddy King and his momma wanted him to come back here to Atlanta where it was safe, and he needed a rest. They started the sit ins at Rich’s and the students asked him to come and he went. They arrested the students and let them go. But very few people knew that they arrested him (Dr. King) and didn’t let him go. They took him and put him in solitary in the Dekalb County jail. Back then Dekalb County wasn’t like it is now. In fact that was basically when Stone Mountain was the (Ku Klux) Klan Headquarters. So he was down there near Stone Mountain. They took him out and put him in chains, put him in the back of a paddy wagon in the middle of the night, not knowing where he was going. Nobody in the paddy wagon except a German shepherd. Fortunately, he had dogs at home and he was not afraid of the dog. He had no idea where they were going. He was sure they were going to take him down to the Flint River somewhere and throw him in the water and he would end up dead. This was his dying hour and he was just 30 years old. I think that night rather than have a nervous breakdown, I think God gave him an experience of life and death. When he got stabbed in Harlem — he said “I am sure glad I got stabbed in Harlem, because if I had gotten stabbed somewhere else they may have taken that knife out. The knife was pressed against the main aorta of his heart. But I was in Harlem and they know how to deal with a knife wound in Harlem. They THE SPHINX
pulled knives out of brothers three or four times a week. He had so many experiences with death that he was - just a matter of when. He was deliberately putting his life in the hands of God. He actually went to Memphis against everybody’s advice. But I think he knew the end was near. And he wanted to die with the poor. He would always tell us, ‘You’re gonna die and you have no say over when you die, or how you die, but you’re gonna die. The only thing you can do is try to live the kind of life so that when you die you die for something.’ People say not only did he live the life of Christ, but He was willing to die for his trusts and beliefs.” But nothing could have prepared them for what would happen in Memphis the evening of April 4, 1968. Brother Young had been with Dr. King all day and they returned to the Lorraine Motel before going to dinner at the home of Rev. Billy Kyle. As King walked out onto the Lorraine’s balcony, Andrew turned to him and spoke. Martin would hear the last voice of his life — that of his confidant and friend, Andrew Young. “He went upstairs and put on his shirt and tie,” Young said. “When he came out I suggested that he put on a coat because it was April and it was chilly at night. He lifted his head as if to say, ‘Do I really need a coat?’
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And a shot rang out that clipped the tip of his chin and severed his spinal cord. I don’t think he heard it much less felt it. When I got to him, his pulse was still beating. It was very clear that it was all over”. 2 But in the end, Young doesn’t want us to focus on how Brother King died, but rather how he lived. He admonishes us to be more like King, to find contemporary solutions to everyday problems, realizing we all have the ability to lead, and to facilitate change. “You never know how God is using you and you never know the purpose for which you are being used, and you never know who you are reaching…When I wrote my book about the Civil Rights movement I named it, An Easy Burden and it came from the New Testament. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”3 Matthew 11:29 And what I learned in my life and especially in the Civil Rights Movement (was) that any task that God calls you to, hee gives you the strength to survive and so it’s easy. So the biggest obstacles are my own fears and doubts. And I have learned to trust in Jesus and he never failed me yet.” 2 CNN April 14, 2017 3 Matthew 11:29
DR. JOSEPH LOWERY INITIATED NOVEMBER 13, 2010 - ETA LAMBDA CHAPTER LIFE MEMBER #12274
Brother Joseph Echols Lowery rose to prominence as one of the five founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was joined by Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Bayard Rustin, and Fred Shuttlesworth in the quest to serve as a rallying organization in the fight for civil rights. Born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1921, Joseph Lowery was beaten by a police officer at the age of twelve because he accidentally brushed up against the officer. So at an early age, Lowery was set on his path to be a leader in the movement. Lowery is known as the sharp-witted, poetic, and powerful, yet moderate shepherd, who guided Dr. King from Alabama to Atlanta. A pastor and civic leader, Lowery never strayed from his mission to be of service to people and to empower the weakest of voices. He provided a platform for problems to be heard, understood and changed. When he heard the news of Dr. King’s death, Dr. Lowery, who had been visiting a church in Nashville on April 4, 1968, 54
was on a train back to Birmingham.. When he reached the train platform in Birmingham, he saw his wife, Evelyn, and his five children. Her face and his children’s eyes, reddened with tears told all. He knew immediately that something terrible had happened. “Martin has been shot and is dead,” said his wife, Evelyn in a shaky voice. They stood, in one large embrace, shedding tears. Lowery was asked to speak about his friend and to do radio and television interviews to help calm residents. While his ministerial training prepared him for grief counseling, this was different. He had to also help his listeners control their anger and not retaliate —all while subduing his own anger. “I wanted to do the same thing,” he said. “I wanted to strike out. A flash of anger hit me when she told me and at the same time the sadness and you are torn between your emotions. You feel like you’re being torn apart. You want to stand on the rooftop and say, this is what we told you when you were hateful and when you were oppressive. And this is where violence leads. You destroyed a non-violent man. And on the other hand, you have to honor his leadership and take the high road and know that an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth will leave us all blind and gumming out food.”4 Over the years, Joseph Lowery has been striking out, he has given way to his flashes of anger, but he did so with his voice and not his fists. Lowery always speaks his mind, his conscience, and his heart. Even at the 4 Visionary Project, October 4, 2013 THE SPHINX
funeral for Coretta Scott King, before a sitting president and three former presidents, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter. “How marvelous that presidents and governors come to mourn and praise, but in the morning (pause) - will words become deeds that meet needs?”5 His tribute to Coretta included jabs at the highest office in the land, questioning the war in Iraq says “We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.”6 Now at age 96, our dear brother Dr. Lowery is confined to his home. His voice has been weakened by time, his physical strength has been waning, but his heart and his mind are still trained on love and forgiveness and making people believe in themselves and in their causes. His answers to questions are poignantly brief, punctuated by the spirit, and the teachings of his friend who fostered non-violence. Brother Carter: What do you think that Americans need to be doing right now in order to make Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ a reality. Brother Lowery: One thing we need to recall — our commitment to justice without regard to race or color or creed. Brother Carter: In what ways do you think — if at all — do you think that Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ has not been fulfilled? Brother Lowery: Well, we’re still running short of a kind of leveling the playing field and I think it’s a good time to renew our 5 Coretta Scott King’s Funeral, October 8, 2007 6 Coretta Scott King’s Funeral, October 8, 2007 MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
vow—have a level playing field. To give everybody a good shot at having a good life. Brother Carter: There are a lot of children out there who only know about Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech and some, unfortunately, don’t even know that. What do you want them to remember about Dr. King? Brother Lowery: He believed in liberty and justice for all. Brother Carter: This have been, of course, 50 years since Dr. King died, do you ever perceive a time where people will forget that he was here? Brother Lowery: Well, unless they stay reminded you through various means then they will forget, and that’s why we keep the lamp light burning (by)recalling Dr. King’s words and deeds. Brother Carter: Was there anything in particular that Dr. King said that strikes a chord with you that you remember any of his quotes or speeches that you remember that touched you personally? Brother Lowery: Well, of course, you can’t forget, I Have a Dream because it touched every chord on our playing board. Brother Carter: What would you say was your contribution? How did you—and throughout your life—how did you keep Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ alive yourself? Brother Lowery: Well, I lived up to my commitment as best I could. There were times when the bell didn’t ring and the echo didn’t answer but other than that we kept ‘the Dream’ alive through our commitment and renewing of our vows so that justice rolled 55
down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Brother Carter: Do you remember anything, any conversation you had with Dr. King? Do you remember the last conversation you had with him? Brother Lowery: I think the last time we talked we did talk about parts of ‘the Dream’ and his speech, and I thanked him for his leadership his stewardship. While Dr. Lowery can no longer offer the same level of preaching, and commentary, he is an Alpha man who was indoctrinated in the notion that if there is work to be done, he was the man to do it. He now counts it as
his particular responsibility to stimulate each of us to do the same, to be like minded, and to follow, however we can, in the steps of Dr. King, and adopt his zeal for service. “To appropriately celebrate Martin, we must honor both the man and the movement,” he said “To ennoble the man and ignore the movement is to do injustice to both. We must not let the spirit of the movement be overcome with sentimental ceremonies that omit the sacramental nature of the struggle. Ceremonies end with the benediction while sacraments begin with the benediction. Ceremony is like putting a ring on her finger at the wedding. Sacrament is ringing her life with love and joy ever after.”7 7 Chicago Tribune. January 19, 2009
REV. OTIS MOSS, JR. INITIATED DECEMBER 5, 1955- ALPHA RHO CHAPTER LIFE MEMBER #3827
The waters of the Tallahatchie River were still warm on that August day. The current moved swiftly as it flows for 230 miles. The Choctaw Indians named it for its rocks and dangers in more shallow areas - “Rock of Waters” they called it. Amazing to see - but swiftly dangerous. Here in Tippah County, Mississippi a heinous act would galvanize the many efforts to protect Negroes across the country. From these waters, the body of a 14-year-old Chicago boy would be retrieved. Bound, beaten, shot and a 75-pound fan tied to his neck, that is how they found Emmett Till. Till had been accused of 56
flirting with a white woman in a country store. Carolyn Bryant told the story to her husband, Roy. He and his half-brother J. W. Milam found the boy, kidnapped, and along with others present murdered him. The men
were put on trial, but were acquitted in a short amount of time. The jury said they would have been back sooner, but they “took some time to drink a bottle of pop.” Just last year, 2017, Carolyn Bryant came forward to say that she made the whole story up. Emmett Till was innocent. In September of that same year, a young Morehouse man in his senior year attended the National Baptist Convention. There, Otis Moss, Jr. met a dynamic preacher, by the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., Moss was no stranger to the name nor the family, having met Daddy King early in his years at Morehouse. That convention was consumed by the topic of Emmett Till and how the church should respond. Every prayer, every sermon, every discussion was focused on this young boy, and what his death meant to the rest of America. Born in Lagrange, Georgia in 1935, Brother Moss lost his mother when he was just a boy and then his father died when he was 16. However, at age 12, he experienced a tremendous loss that changed his thinking and set into motion a series of decisions that led to his becoming a preeminent pastor. That young boy learned that an older cousin a successful Georgia farmer with a wife and four-year-old daughter had been killed... lynched by a mob. His name was Henry “Peg” Gilbert. “He was lynched because they couldn’t find the Black person they were looking for. So he became the substitute for the person they wanted to lynch. So the spirit, I suppose, of the mob was, any Black person will do. Somebody has to be lynched, because an altercation had taken place between a Black man and a white man. The white man was brutally beating the Black man and the Black
MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
man shot the white man and it was a fatal shooting. And got away. So they had to, in their mindset, lynch somebody. All of that impacting the mind and spirit of children and adults and in my case a 12-year-old. All of this became a part of content of my memory.” The story of Henry Gilbert was horrible. According to multiple accounts, Gilbert was arrested because he “looked like” another man named Gus Davidson. Davidson was visiting Harris County, Georgia from his home in Pittsburgh, PA. While driving in rural Georgia, he hit a cow and the owner became so outraged that he reportedly began beating Davidson with a stick. In self-defense, he shot the man and fled - managing to escape with the help of an undertaker. He hid in a coffin and found his way to Atlanta and then to Camden, N.J. Shortly thereafter, Gilbert was arrested. A hooded mob took him from the jail and killed him. Most of his bones had been broken, his skull had been crushed, and he had been shot five times. Stories like these course through the veins of Brother Moss - giving energy to his desires to make a difference. They served as the fuel the propelled him into untold dangers and caused him to be the voice of change. “Can anybody un-lynch Emmitt Till and all of the people who have been assassinated and lynched and brutalized? So irreparable harm has been done and I acknowledge that, and internalized it with the spirit that you must, you can, and you will spend your life trying to do something about it and that is what I been trying to do. Along with many, many others.” Now retired, Otis Moss, Jr. had risen to become one of the prophetic voices of the 57
Civil Rights Movement. He was on the staff of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was a confidant and facilitator. His close relationship with the King family led him to pastor several churches in Georgia and Ohio, only to return to Atlanta, and serve as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. Through it all, Otis Moss, Jr. remained the calm voice that carried a message of peace and equality throughout the country in the spirit of his friend. Brother Carter: “Do you think that type of spirit still exist? Are there those among us that have the spirit of change in the same way that you did, and Martin did, and Ralph David Abernathy, and Andrew Young did during the height of the Civil Rights movement?” Brother Moss: “I think it is there. It is not always as prevalent or as recognizable as it was perhaps in my developing years and in my growing years and years of active engagement on a daily basis. Because we are living, not so much in a new world, but maybe we are, our relationships, and our institutions, and our daily walk, and talk—the technological impact has changed our communications—mechanisms so there are so many things coming at us on a daily basis-every second—that we do not have the benefit of focusing on a daily basis on certain historic—certain demanding reality because so many things are coming before us. But the freedom struggle is very much alive in countless ways. One day, it’s hundreds of thousands of women marching. Another day, it’s a television program. Another day it’s a dramatic presentation. And another day it’s a election of President Obama, and the reelection of President Obama. So, there are many things bursting forward that these things say to us—the struggle goes from generation to generation, however, the forces 58
of opposition also update tools and sharpen their determination to maintain all of the evil that have been so destructive to us and to the human race. So in one year, one era, a governor, a mayor, a police commissioner is never, never, never. And in another age the president is saying make America great again. If that appears to some people to be a veil of the message—when you begin to call a quarterback a derogatory name or African nations and nations occupied by people of color—derogatory names—we know that the spirit of Bull Connor is very much alive. And I hate to say this—and present even in the White House.” Brother Carter: “What message do you want to give to America and particularly to young people as we move forward and observe the loss of Dr. King 50 years ago?” Brother Moss: “One, never forget that in our time and in our space, by God’s grace that we can make a difference, I can make a difference, you can make difference, we must make a difference in our time and our space by god’s grace. Secondly, the question is often asked, what do you think Dr. King would be doing if he were alive today? That questions is perhaps a good starter for rich discussion but there’s a more basic and demanding question. And that is what am I doing and saying. What are we doing, the dream, the struggle is in my hands, your hands and our hands and we will have to give an account of what we do with that which is now in our hands, and we must pass it on to the next generations and keep alive the determination to remain in the struggle and give our best as long as we live.”
RAPHAEL WARNOCK INITIATED NOVEMBER 14, 1993 – ALPHA GAMMA LAMBDA CHAPTER It’s one thing to follow the words and teachings of Dr. King, but yet another to literally follow in his footsteps. The Reverend Raphael Warnock will tell you that it was not his intention to follow the ministerial path of his celebrated Alpha Brother, but it did work out that way. Both realized their calling to the ministry at an early age. Both attended Morehouse College. Both fought and still fight for civil rights and equal protection under the law. Both have a connection to the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. Both pastored Ebenezer Baptist Church and both call the entire community their congregation and the world their pulpit. King has no limitations on where and when he should preach the Gospel. and neither does Warnock. The the youngest pastor in the history of Ebenezer, Brother Warnock has increased its membership by more than 3,000 people. The church is considered “America’s Freedom Church” because of its history and because it became the place where Americans came in search of answers when perplexing questions rose about freedom and justice. The rich history of this church is not lost on this still young pastor who eloquently keeps its past mission alive in a contemporary world.
point of the pulpit. So as young as I could remember, I was really just fascinated by Dr. King. I grew up during a time when there was a push to make Dr. King’s birthday a holiday. He was killed in 1968. I was born in 1969. I remember somewhere around the late 70s and early 80s there was a move and a push and campaign to have his birthday become a holiday. So our parents—I grew up in Savannah, Georgia—our parents and our community pulled a lot of us out of school on January 15th and we used to have teach-ins all day long centered around Dr. King. This was before it became an official holiday. And so I just remember studying Dr. King, watching Eyes On the Prize and other films that captured his life and ministry and I was just so captivated by so many things. I was captivated by his eloquence, his use of words and the power of his words to move other people. My father was a preacher so I had some lens through, I guess, to see all of this. I was moved by his activism, his willingness to stand up for what he believed in.
After fiery sermon, Brother Warnock and I retired to his office and engaged in conversation about this man who was such an influence on his life. “…He has been for me a kind of North Star and a role model of what it means to do ministry and to live into the calling of liberation work. You know, from the vantage MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
You know, as a 7-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 10-year-old and I was just captivated by Dr. King early on. And so—fast forward, I went to Morehouse College in large part because Dr. King went to Morehouse. And then I saw the great tradition of not only preachers around him who were very well educated, polished and deeply committed to the struggle. And that was something I found compelling and wanted be a part of. So I was drawn in some ways, recruited by the spirit of King to Morehouse. There’s no way I could have imagined that I end up being the pastor of this church, but it has been the honor of my life.” Brother Warnock reminds us that while we celebrate the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, that there were those before him who had already been leaders in their own right in the area of justice and equality. Among them was his father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. “Lots of people know that Martin Luther King Jr. is the force behind the voting rights law of 1965. What very few people know is that his father led a voting rights campaign in Atlanta from this church in 1935. So all of us are standing on somebody else’s shoulders. Long—30 years before the Voting Rights Act law—before the Voting Rights Law was passed, Dr. King’s father, Daddy King as he was affectionately called, the third pastor of this church was fighting for voting rights. He was on the board of a bank. He said that there were 12 commandments! We know there are 10 commandments. Number 11 was thou shalt go to college. And number 12 he told his congregation—imagine this in the 40s and 50s—thou shalt own your own home and so he was kind of an activist in his own right. And then Dr. King’s maternal grandfather, the second pastor of this church, A.D. Williams was also an activist. Dr. King went to a high 60
school, which was the first public high school for black children in Atlanta—built in the 1920s. So it’s been less than a hundred years that we had a public school available for black children in Atlanta and that high school came to fruition through the activism of Dr. King’s maternal grandfather and second pastor of this church A.D. Williams. My point is, he too stood on the shoulders of others. And so what I’ve tried to do is to leverage the historic legacy of this church for a new moment to speak in my own voice and bear witness to what I call God’s gospel of love, truth and liberation.” Brother Carter: Is Dr. King relevant today and just based upon your observations of young people, what is their relationship to the legacy of Dr. King? Brother Warnock: “If you know the real Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., you will know the radical nature of his witness. You will know that in a moment like this, in which we’re still dealing with what he called the triple evils of racism, poverty and war. That his words are so important in this moment. I’m amazed at how relevant his message continues to be. I think what you’re witnessing often with young people is either just a lack of awareness and knowledge other then—Dr. King has become such an icon that he’s like the Bible. People have heard of it and they’ve got a working understanding of what they think is in it, but they never actually really, read it. He’s a text that’s seldom read. But more so, lifted up as an icon. Which is why conservatives use him — use his words out of context to kind of argue for a sort of race-blind approach to correcting racism. When Dr. King said clearly if the country spent hundreds of years doing something against the negro, as he said it, it stands the reason why you have to do something for THE SPHINX
the negro in order to correct it. You know, he spent the last two years of his life dealing with, you know, dealing with the Poor Peoples Campaign and poverty, which the legacy and slavery. So you know, a lot people don’t understand—really understand his work. And some of the people who see themselves in the black community as the guard—we see a lot of that in Atlanta especially; you know, who see themselves as the guardians of that legacy. I think young people are responding negatively to them. Because they talk about King in a way as if they own him. And for example, you know, they use King as an argument against Black Lives Matter, which is completely wrongheaded. Dr. King is much more, his legacy is much more consistent with the work of Black Lives Matter than those in our community who are saying this kids don’t understand. Dr. King said in that speech, which has become so domesticated and tamed because we only listen to parts of his most famous speech, the “I Have a Dream” speech, which begins not only talking about a dream but a check that had come back marked insufficient funds. So it begins with a demand. But in that speech Dr.
King said some are asking when will the Negro be satisfied. And he said we will not be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim—as long as the negro is the victim of the viciousness of police brutality, we will not be satisfied. I think the word viciousness may not have been in that quote but as long as the negro is the victim of police brutality, we will not be satisfied. So hear that, even in that one line, as long as the negro is the victim of police brutality. Dr. King was talking about police brutality in 1963 and he was very specific that it’s not everybody who’s dealing with police brutality, he wasn’t in denial. He said the Negro is the victim of police brutality because our experience with the police is different. That’s what he meant. And that’s what this generation means when they say Black Lives Matter. When people retort and say, All Lives Matter, what they fail to recognize is that the importance of white life (has) never been in question. It’s never been in question. Black Lives Matter is— the Negro has always been the victim of police brutality since the 1963 version of Black Lives Matter.
DERRICK PARKER INITIATED APRIL 8, 2017 – ALPHA RHO CHAPTER Brother King at Morehouse: “As soon as I entered college, I started working with the organizations that were trying to make racial justice a reality. The wholesome relations we had in the Intercollegiate Council convinced me that we had many white persons as allies, particularly among the younger generation. I had been ready to resent the whole white race, but as I got to see more of white people, my resentment was softened, and a spirit of cooperation took its place. I was at the point where I was deeply interested in political MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
matters and social ills. I could envision myself playing a part in breaking down the legal barriers to Negro rights.”8 In the 50 years since his death, some would say that his lessons have been lost on the young, but this too is a generation embroiled in some of the same issues that plagued Black lives decades ago. 8 https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/ publications/autobiography-martin-luther-king-jrcontents/chapter-2-morehouse-college 61
Alpha Rho Chapter Brother Derrick Parker is keenly aware of who he is and whose he is. A firstgeneration college student and a senior at Morehouse College from Kansas City, Missouri, he has just been accepted into Harvard Law School, an achievement he has dreamed of for years. He is one who not only knows of Dr. King, he knows King’s words and has been a student of the Civil Rights leader’s speeches. Brother Parker has found practical application of the words of King and the relevance of their meaning in 2018. Brother Parker: “So, my first kind of interaction with Dr. King, you know, on a really depth scale, was when I was in high school. It’s a program through the National Bar Association—Dr. King Scholarship Award. Essay and oratory competition. And so before then I had listen to Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech—when I listened to it, it was just amazing to me. It was shocking—you know— one man had the power to convey an audience with words and he used words to unite people and I thought that, you know, words are powerful. That’s when I realized the true power of words. And so in this oratory competition, I was—I met with an attorney who helped me prepare and after I won the local competition, I went to the regional competition and eventually the national competition, where I won first place. And so after that competition, I just realized that, you know, anything is possible. And there was—through kind of Dr. King’s teachings—what I studied about him—his approach of nonviolence and civil disobedience—that kind of inspired me, because, you know, it was always troubling 62
to me how people could be nonviolent against violence. Ad so that was always shocking to me but as dug deep and read more about him, I realized that it’s really the people—the people who are stronger, who don’t react to the violence. And so those are really the strongest people. And so all of these things really pushed me in a way where, you know, Dr. King soon became my hero and I can—memorized many of Dr. King’s speeches. The “I Have a Dream” speech—Mountain Top speech. And so, you know, Dr. King signifies to a generation of people that, you know, all hope has not been lost here in America. And I know that, you know, with our generation of millennials, people think were so far removed from the Civil Rights Era—that we have no connection, but I think that his words still play an important part today even dealing with the labor movement that he was fighting for in the 60s. You know, all of his words, and teachings are still prevalent today. Brother Carter: As your life begin to develop, do you see any similarities between your life— what you wanna do, who you wanna be to Dr. King, so what are those parallels? Brother Parker: Well, you know, Dr. King is definitely a civil rights legend—giant and— you know—it’s kind of hard to say—compare myself to Dr. King, which is not something I want to do but as far as being an advocate for change and that’s where I see the parallels with myself and Dr. King—relentlessly advocating for society’s most vulnerable and I think that, you know, that’s what Dr. King did during his days on Earth and that’s what I’ll do, you know, as I progress throughout law school and THE SPHINX
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eventually practice law and become—and becoming an elected official. You know I want to advocate on behalf of those who cannot fully advocate on behalf of themselves. And so I think that Dr. King—he did it in such as way he could unite people of all colors, all shapes and sizes from all corners of American society. And if I can do just that then I think my life would have meant something. Brother Carter: You have a natural connection to Dr. King because you go to Morehouse College, the same institution, you walk pass his statue everyday. You’re in front of King Chapel. The life and image of Dr. King is embedded in you. What about those students who do not have that parallel—who are attending colleges in other areas and or have not had the benefit of knowing about Dr. King—other than what they hear about him on his birthday or, you know, during Black History Month. What is the relevancy to them? Brother Parker: So, you know, far beyond Morehouse College, far beyond, you know, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, I think Dr. King is relevant to everybody, not just in America but around the world. Those who champion the cause of peace and equity. I think that, you know, that’s where Dr. King is relevant. It’s not just for African Americans either. You know, Dr. King said that, you know, black domination is just as bad as white domination, so that’s not what we need. Dr. King liked to say that, you know, we’re all intrinsically bound together through a common identity and that is—that of the human race. And so, we’re all humans therefore we need to be working—or in some way share mutual outcome. And you know, I think—I think that outcome is simple, which is justice for all…and so I think that, it’s not just because I go to Morehouse that Dr. King MLK JR. SPECIAL EDITION 2018
is relevant, not just because—I’m blessed to be a part of the same fraternity as Dr. King—it’s because I’m American and it’s because I’m a person and I see where we can be as America. Brother Carter: Who is the current Dr. King? Brother Parker: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I can answer that. I don’t know if we have a current Dr. King. Is there a need for one? I think there is. Brother Carter: Are there elements of Dr. King—any of his workings—alive now in young people—I mean alive in Black Lives Matter—is it alive in some of the other protests, demonstrations that we’ve seen across the country? Brother Parker: It’s definitely alive. His message has been alive since he died, you know, in the 1960s. So I don’t think his message has ever been lost. But I think there needs to be a strengthening of that message, and the unification of the different voices of, you know, the Black Lives Matter movement. And you know, times have changed and so Black Lives Matter, has been called our Civil Rights Movement today. But I still think there needs to be some type of defining figure who can unite the country and I don’t think that we have that. And I think even Black Lives Matter—the movement has been seen as a bit divisive. And so I think that’s another arena Dr. King could come in and help unite, you know, unite the country. Brother Carter: Your closing thoughts? Brother Parker: Dr. King said something of meaning and value, It’s up to me to make the words real and keep that spirit alive.
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