Ever since 1986, on the third Monday of each January, the United States observes the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in commemoration of his birthday anniversary, which is actually Jan. 15, 1929.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor … it must be demanded by the oppressed!” King determined.
While many did not agree with the peaceful preacher’s passive approach to solving race problems in the land of the free, some admired his courageous stance against oppressors, as the whole world unwittingly witnessed.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at during times of challenge and controversy,” King asserted.
As the mainstream media keeps the masses focused on a 1963 King dream, rarely is mention made of his more progressive presentations, such as “Beyond Vietnam,” delivered at Harlem’s historic Riverside Church April 4, 1967; “Remaining Awoke Through a Great Revolution,” shared at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., March 31, 1968, or “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” his last dissertation, April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
“We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools,” the optimistic orator warned.
While still advocating non-violence as a tool to accomplish his goal of a colorblind society, by the late 1960s, King was taking a sterner stance against police terrorism, racial injustice and other social issues in the home of the brave.
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. … We need a radical redistribution of economic power,” King implored the D.C. audience.
During later years, King was more vocal about unequal employment opportunities for his people, often emphasizing the value of education and advocated being proactive.
“If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl … but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,” King urged.
The fearless reverend also pushed the need for adaptability.
“One of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people often find themselves living amid a great period of social change and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands,” he noted while in D.C. “They end up sleeping through a revolution.”
His assessment of the turbulent climate at that time determined that it was self-destructive behavior for some.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” said King at Grosse Pointe High School March 14, 1968.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published January, 23 2015