Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Martin Luther King Jr.

Human indignity for all?

Is this the best we can offer?

Indignity: treatment or circumstances that cause one to feel shame or to lose one’s dignity. Regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or country of origin. Which, in my book, amounts to indignity for all of us.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream was simple: human dignity for all.

Or, as Dr. King put it when writing in 1963 about his own children:

I dream that one day soon
they will no longer be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.

The quote comes from the opening pages of Dr. King’s book, Why We Can’t Wait.

Today, 57 years later, we’ve gone backwards. Especially, though not only for African Americans.

Yesterday D and I went to see Just Mercy, a recently released movie. It’s based on Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy: A story of Justice and Redemption. Stevenson, a Harvard-trained attorney and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, writes about one of his first cases as a young black attorney working in the South.

The movie depicts what happens to two black men placed on death row before receiving a fair trial, and what it takes to deal with the status quo. The judicial system’s message is clear: You won’t get out of here alive, no matter what evidence is produced in your trial or on appeal. But what happens in the end, and how?

February is Black History Month here in the USA. Just Mercy is being shown in several cinemas in the Philadelphia area. If you haven’t or can’t see the movie, check out a copy of the book. It’s at least as clear, heartbreaking and challenging as the movie.

This movie was my choice yesterday evening, rather than watching/listening to the President’s State of the Union address. It was a splendid choice.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 February 2020
Image from the movie found at rogerebert.com

Gumdrops, Spring and Dr. King

Like gumdrops
Filling a candy jar
Seconds of daylight
Pile up helter skelter
Cheery gold and lavender
Green, purple and red
Steal the show
From winter’s icy grip
One precious drop at a time

Snow and sleet this morning; sun promised this afternoon. Crocus and forsythia bloom no matter what falls from the sky. Relentlessly, they’re taking back their space and sending winter packing.

On 4 April 1968, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I can’t think of another religious or political leader who has, in my lifetime, spoken truth to power as effectively as he did. Not once, but many times over.

Dr. King’s approach offers an alternative to Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again. Dr. King’s option is about hope for our future, though not because we’ll all be Great in the Trumpian way.

Instead, like the silent approach of spring, we’ll join others to steal the show from our long national winter of discontent. It will take no more and no less than small acts of nonviolent hope, listening as we’ve never listened before, and one courageous vote at a time.

We don’t have to wait until we’re part of an army or national movement to do what needs doing. Nor are we promised rose gardens or fame in return for our service. Instead, we’re promised the soul-satisfying, dangerous work of living and speaking truth to overweening, soul-destroying power.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 April 2018
Photo found on pinterest.com

A Georgia Song, by Maya Angelou

In tribute to Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., and all African-American poets and dreamers who see into us and into our history with razor-sharp eyes, ears and tongues.

As a transplanted (from California) citizen of Savannah, Georgia, I grew up surrounded by two stories–the white story splashed boldly across the city of Savannah and its outlying communities, and the black story inextricably woven into the warp and woof of everyday life. Visible yet invisible. Maya Angelou’s poem is haunting for its accuracy, its longing for something better, and its painful memories. I’ve included a few explanatory notes at the end.

A Georgia Song

We swallow the odors of Southern cities,
Fat back boiled to submission,
Tender evening poignancies of
Magnolia and the great green
Smell of fresh sweat.
In Southern fields,
The sound of distant
Feet running, or dancing,
And the liquid notes of
Sorrow songs,
Waltzes, screams and
French quadrilles float over
The loam of Georgia.

Sing me to sleep, Savannah.

Clocks run down in Tara’s halls and dusty
Flags droop their unbearable
Sadness.

Remember our days, Susannah.

Oh, the blood-red clay,
Wet still with ancient
Wrongs, and Abenaa
Singing her Creole airs to Macon.
We long, dazed, for winter evenings
And a whitened moon,
And the snap of controllable fires.

Cry for our souls, Augusta.

We need a wind to strike
Sharply, as the thought of love
Betrayed can stop the heart
An absence of tactile
Romance, no lips offering
Succulence, nor eyes
Rolling disconnected from
A Sambo face.

Dare us new dreams, Columbus.

A cool new moon, a
Winter’s night, calm blood,
Sluggish, moving only
Out of habit, we need
Peace.

Oh Atlanta, oh deep, and
Once lost city,

Chant for us a new song. A song
Of Southern peace.

Poem found in Maya Angelou: Poetry for Young People, Sterling Children’s Books, New York, published 2013

Cities in Georgia named in this poem: Savannah, Macon, Augusta, Columbus and Atlanta

Fatback is a Southern delicacy – fat from a side of pork, often fried like chips; here, the reference is to harsh treatment of slaves.

“Tara’s halls” refers to the home of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.

Abenaa – a girl born on Tuesday (in the Fanti language)

Creole – of mixed African and European ancestry

Sambo – stereotypic nickname for an African American boy

The painting at the top depicts the beginning of Sherman’s March through Georgia in the 1850s — from Atlanta to Savannah, with the goal of total submission of the South, along with the so-called end of slavery. The uncounted tragedies of this war include the attempt of our country to root out anyone standing in the way of our ‘pre-ordained greatness.’ Hence, on the other side of this Uncivil War, lurked attempts of some to drive out or destroy American Indians who stood in the way of railroads and the gold rush.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou and other poets challenge us to rise above our past. To become truly great as human beings, unafraid to look up, greet each other, and join the human race.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 January 2018
Artwork found at allpurposegurulcom; painter and title not identified

%d bloggers like this: