Are We There Yet?

Two score and two years tomorrow marks the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which makes today the anniversary of his last speech/sermon, which happens to be my favorite, what is commonly known as "I've Been to the Mountaintop". It was at that church in Memphis, hours before an assassin's bullet took his life that he surveyed the history of the world, gave a glimpse of the future he'd seen, but most importantly documented the world as it was that day.
And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

That was April 3, 1968, today is April 3, 2010 and that statement applies more than ever. He stood in that pulpit in the midst of the Vietnam War, the war for Civil Rights and at the cusp of his new battle against poverty and spoke on behalf of the human race, not the race people saw in his face. I'm reminded of a man that stands at a podium nearly every day seven years after the mission was accomplished, at war over health care reform and in the middle of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. I'm not drawing that comparison between the two, just noting the resemblance of the moment.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

The concluding passage is what has remained in the minds of most people since that night, as the "promised land" he spoke of seemed to be some unfathomable place in the sky. For many people, we reached the "promised land" on November 4, 2008, but that was simply an indicator of how far we have to go. In the fourteen months since President Obama took his oath, we've gotten a glimpse of just how much hate America still harbors and the widening divide of classes. The fight for health care reform was bitter and quite frankly reminiscent of the Civil Rights Era with the emergence of the Tea Party and their actions as the bill was set to be passed. Who would've thought that something like seeking medical coverage for every American could be so divisive? I don't remember the "white-hot rhetoric" being so feverish when that last guy was in office.

On April 19th, former militia member and blogger Mike Vanderboegh is leading the "Restore the Constitution" rally on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia where participants are legally able to open carry firearms, the constitutional right they hold so dearly and see possible gun reform laws in violation of. This date is the 235th anniversary of the first battle of the American Revolution, but coincidently (or not) commemorates 15 years since domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh bombed Federal buildings in Oklahoma. In the warped minds of a few too many, these events are intertwined in the preservation of a way of life that was outdated after the ink dried on the constitution, but they seek restoration. Lest not forget that same document said I was 3/5 of a man.
And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I'm just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding.

Yes, we've made strides as a people, but we have come nowhere near the "promised land" Dr. King spoke of. It is important that the struggle continues, because only a battle was won when we went to the polls on November 4th of 2008, as we've seen there's much more that needs to be done. This is why Tavis Smiley's campaign for a Black agenda is necessary. I've heard folks say that Mr. Smiley is a "hater", but I believe he's a student of history and understands that historically we've been left out of the conversation and now is the perfect time for African-Americans, Black folks or Negroes (return your census!) to be included in the dialogue.

So, while some may conclude that Mr. Smiley is on a fruitless crusade, I applaud him for attempting to remind the first African-American president that there's a segment of the population that you can't overlook, that legislation must be introduced and passed to help combat abject poverty, that jobs must be created for these people. That while health care reform is monumental, what does it mean to those that can't afford to be sick? It serves as a reminder that people are losing their homes to a collapsed job market and greed of the financial sector. He reminds him that No Child Left Behind left behind millions of children and this race of people continues to suffer to centuries of oppression, racism, class divides and gender bias. That race is the Americans he campaigned to serve and while a Black Agenda is needed, it is only a part of the reform that America requires.

Are we there yet? No. Are we on our way? Possibly. We're on the road less-traveled up that mountain that greatness has stood upon and relayed its vision of to us on that rainy night in Memphis. So we'll keep marching along against every faction that holds dear the traditional values of bigotry and exclusivity until we reach that "promised land". Though Dr. King won't get there with us, he certainly went there for us.

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