Jan 15, 2008

The Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration @ Stanford University

My Poem: Have you noticed lately, that many of the civil rights workers (3 in the King family alone), have recently slipped away? Now, who will carry the torch for us today? Each one of us must pick up and carry the torch for justice and freedom ourselves!
By Rev. C. Solomon

The nation as well as most individuals will celebrate Dr. King's birthday on Monday January 21, 2008.

However, I would like to commend Professor Clayborne Carson, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute and Stanford University for the excellent program that ensued earlier today, January 15, 2008, in honor of Dr. King's birthday.

It was entitled:
2008 King Birthday Celebration, and it was held at the gorgeous Arrillaga Alumni Center on the campus of Stanford University.

I was reminded yesterday, that today was MLK's birthday and that a special celebration would be taking place at my old haunt Stanford. I was able, tonight, to celebrate Dr. King's birthday along with old friends and comrades.

It seemed like yesterday when members of the Executive Board of Afro-American Staff and Faculty at Stanford, comprised of of our President, Dr. Judith Little; the indomitable Mr. Henry Organ aka Hank; the erudite professor and accomplished musician Dr. Michael Britt; former college roommate and friend of the late Dr. Ralph Abernathy, Harold Boyd; and yours truly Rev. C. Solomon who rounded out the Board, met with Mr. Clayborne Carson for introductory and debriefing purposes, in an intimate setting on the Stanford campus.

It was at that time that Coretta Scott King and the King Center appointed Prof. Carson to edit the King Papers. He explained how he planned to go about his task, and when the world could expect editions of the papers and volumes of the MLK Encyclopedia to be released.

At Stanford this evening I felt as if I had not missed a beat, albeit I spent the past 7 years mostly in the Washington DC-metro region. Not only was Clayborne one of the first individuals that I got to see and talk with about old times, there were other special guests from Los Angeles and other places in California.

Also present was special guest, Clarence Jones, Attorney and speech-writer for the late civil rights leader, Dr. King, and he is now a scholar in residence at Stanford. Dr. Jones and I met and spoke to each other several times during the evening, he was surprised that I knew that Rev. Billy Graham turned down the invitation to speak along with Dr. MLK at the 1963 March on Washington. We discussed the ramifications of Billy's decision and how it impacted the civil rights workers and Dr. King when he was still alive - and hindered the nation from healing its racial strife, to the extent that it has, sooner than it did.

I also had the opportunity, previously, to question, former Washington Delegate Walter Fauntroy, U.S. Representative Lewis and Reverend Joseph of the SCLC regarding the same subject, on separate occasions over the past few years in Washington DC. Representative Fauntroy confirmed that not only was Dr. King devastated, the rest of the civil rights workers were in dismay given Dr. Graham's behavior - they were hurt, but not surprised.

Reverend Fauntroy, still a pastor on 13th street in Washington added, don't forget that a lot of black ministers and black religious organizations also distanced themselves from Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.

On a personal note, former Stanford colleague and friend, Harold Boyd, would frequently keep us abreast of what his former college roommate, the late Dr. Ralph Abernathy was doing when he was still alive and later became head of SCLC.

I could go on and on name-dropping, however, I won't; however, suffice it say that this affair was attended by some rather substantial individuals from around the world. The excitement of being back in my element, enjoying an excellent reception and an evening spent with old friends and individuals, even special guests who flew over from Bejing China to participate in this evening's affair; not to mention all of the individuals who drove up from Los Angeles (400 miles) and elsewhere caused me to ask God the question again, are we doing enough given this man's sacrifice?

I am still excited about being back home after a 7 year hiatus as I have been sharing with some of my relatives back in my birth state of Ohio, and I simply wanted to share my excitement with you given this evening's affair. Harold was shocked to learn that I had been in DC over the past years, and that I worshipped with former delegate Walter Fauntroy in DC, just over a year ago. Harold was especially surprised because he and his wife stayed out in DC for a minute, visited Fauntroy's church and considered staying in DC and joining his church.

I told him about my discussions with Reverend Fauntroy and his wife at his church (I have also talked with former Washington Delegate Fauntroy on Washington DC radio), as well as sat in on conferences that he also attended with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the hill. And for some reason before meeting me personally, Rev. Fauntroy selected me out of a whole congregation, when I first visited his church to stand up, spontaneously, and have words. Ah, I knew why it happened - God let me know when I was young that that I would follow in the footsteps of Dr. King, and later he showed me that I would also be like the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

And for those of you who criticize our black leaders, I simply ask you this: If the government appointees, presidents, elected officials and other leaders over the past 231 years of American history had done the jobs that they took an oath - and vowed to do, would we have had need of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod-Bethune, Dorothy Height or others to do their jobs for them in the first place?

These people are not at fault, and they are not the one's who should be constantly criticized or blamed for the failure of the citizens of this nation and its leadership, to rise up and live out the meaning of this nation's creeds, not to mention the Christian creed. I have nothing but praise for all of the men and women, black or white, who made personal sacrifices and tried to make a difference in this land of ours, as well as in the world!

The fact of the matter is, if you want to question or blame anyone for the poor racial relations that have persisted in this nation for nearly 400 years, question or blame all of those individuals (all the way back to George Washington and before if you could), and ask them how come you were derelict in your duties and failed to honor your oaths and vows - in fact, one might ask them, if it were possible, where was your personal integrity and honor? In fact some of the critics, some of you, should ask yourself, what have I done besides criticize those who tried to help to implement change?

I have never heard a critic of the civil rights workers or leaders (many of whom have never done anything to help anybody), even the ones who have made mistakes (just as all of us have made), ever criticize those men and women who were paid to do a job, which they failed to do, and as a result - a job that had to be done by someone else. And the ones who did their jobs for them were individuals who often lacked any real resources, still they did the best that they could given the circumstances, Harriet Tubman comes to mind.

Other men and women even sacrificed their lives given the failures of appointed leaders, presidents, supreme court justices and other members of the judiciary, governors, marshalls, policemen and even preachers to do what they were supposed to do! Harold embraced me and said, God is truly getting you ready for something. I'm excited, because I simply want to do God's work, and I want to do the work that I was put in this world to do. Clearly the preparation has been immense and mind boggling. And although Satan's minions recently tried to destroy me in another venue, God helped me and I am still here fighting the good fight!

If I can just walk in the footsteps of the men and women who fought for social justice, the same individuals, mostly religious, who recognized both the social and the spiritual dimensions of Christ's ministry, I will be pleased with the life that I have led and the footsteps of those individuals who I have gladly followed.

In 1983, when I was a delegate to the United Neighborhood Centers of America Conference, held in Washington DC, I was chosen by my peers from around the nation, after several days of caucusing and preparing our platform, to speak before and meet with individual members of Congress. Another black delegate, during one of our receptions raised a question to the dismay of all of us who could hear him. We were at a black-tie reception at the Shoreham Hotel, when he asked, "can anyone tell me anything that Dr. King ever did"? He went on to say, "I don't see anything that he ever did"!

For those of you who did not care for the original movie, Barbershop and outspoken and obstreperous characters like the one played by Cedric the Entertainer, people like that really do exist! Remember, not only had we spent a [portion of the week preparing to speak before members of Congress, we spent several days meeting personally with the offices of men like the late Congressman and head of the Congressional Black Caucus Parren Mitchell, former member of the Freedom Riders whose bus was shot in and torched on one occasion - and others.

I should not fail to mention my one-on-one meeting with former co-sponser of the famous Humphrey-Hawkins Jobs bill, Representative Augustus Hawkins of California, and other Congressmen in private sessions. I was flattered by the attention that I received when Congressman Hawkins personally sent for me, took me aside and spent personal time with me to the dismay of some of my peers, who wanted to know what we discussed. He took out personal time to compliment me for my speech, and to tell, a young minister, more about the in's and out's of Washington DC.

He also told me how I could, along with others back home at the grass roots level help him and others in Congress to be successful. I was also flattered during that trip by Rep. John Seiberling who after listening to my speech, donned me 'the Heavyweight', at one of our private Hearing room sessions at Rayburn with the members of our local delegation that traveled to Washington DC.

When I reflect on this occasion, one of many occasions that I have spent working with members of Congress and attending Congressional and District of Columbia sessions and hearings, not to forget working along with an organizations like DC Vote, I am reminded of my personal visit and meeting with members of the NAACP at its national headquarters in Baltimore Maryland.

In a sit down meeting of about 6 of us, individual staffmembers explained how the NAACP email system was being impaired on a daily basis given the volume of hate mail that they receive each and every day at the NAACP. And having said all of this, being present to see Nelson Mandela who praised Dr. Martin Luther King when he visited Oakland years ago, and here standing in the nation's capitol was a black man who uttered what seemed like such foolish venom!

Ironically, around the year 1993, a white employee at Stanford augured that Dr. King, in his estimation, was nothing but a troublemaker. His words much like the Rev. Billy Graham's and the later repentant governor of Alabama George Wallace, sounded similar to Dr. Graham who by his own admission, refused in 1963 to stand on the podium and tell the nation that 'racism' was wrong. I heard his repentant confession on the radio. How could Dr. Graham a man of God have been so confused?

Well in fairness, the Apostle Peter didn't eat any unclean things, and the prophet Jeremiah seemed to have a problem with the skin color of the Ethiopian - and ironically, it was an Ethiopian who pulled him out of his dungeon!

Dr. Graham viewed Dr. King and the civil rights movement and its leaders as 'the trouble-makers' at the time! It kind of reminds you of all of the people who felt that Jesus Christ was a trouble-maker in his day, the same individuals who preferred to have a murderer and killer/seditionist released, as opposed to someone who simply sought to save lives!

Having said that, can you envision what it would have done for this nation, Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Billy Graham standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and preaching together - saying to the citizens of the United States that the racist practices of the individual citizens, its varied institutions and its governments must stop? Unfortunately, we will never get to see that take place!

We have come a long way as a nation, however, we have a long way to go. And this man, father, minister and activist would like to express loud and clear the deepness of the debt that this nation and likely the world owes to Dr. King, his family and the civil rights movement. The surviving family members should be paid from the national treasury for their service and the contribution that their parents made, given that their parents did the job that other government officials failed to do and yet they were paid for - doing nothing, except fomenting hatred and bigotry themselves!

I was in the audience at the Paramount Theater in Oakland California, when at the beginning of the current millenia, that elegant lady Coretta Scott King was the headliner for the evening's program. I was fortunate to sit in, I believe, the 3rd row where I could get a birds eye view of Mrs. King who immediately exited, probably for security reasons, at the conclusion of her speech. Angela Davis and others also spoke that evening.

The thrill of being there so near to greatness is hard to express - however, I know that if each one of us would simply do what Dr. King, his wife and his accomplices have done already - the world would be a better place! Coretta reminded all of us that she worked in the civil rights movement longer than her deceased husband did. And how much time are we putting in and what are we doing ourselves about civil rights and social justice issues today?

Again, thank you Clayborne Carson and the MLK Research & Education Institute and most of all, Dr. Martin Luther King for your life and sacrifice so that all of us could have what you folks both dreamed, sacrificed and worked for us to attain - that many others did and still do not want us to have, freedom!

Rev. C. Solomon
Pastor, Minister & Long-Time Social Activist


And for those of you who are asking, will they ever stop talking about that indomitable and torrid period in American history? A Jewish gentleman said it best, why do Americans keep asking black Americans to forget their torrid experience in America, when you never ask us to forget ours in Nazi Germany and the rest of the world? This gentleman went on to say on a televised program that most Americans celebrate Jewish history, lament the holocaust and even visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington in order to commiserate with the Jews.

He asked again, why is that you keep asking black Americans to just forget about what they suffered [given their holocaust in America]? Many Americans cannot countenance the fact that Nazi America wasn't any different for blacks than Nazi Germany was for the Jews, whereas blacks in America were also recipients of hatred by the American Aryan brotherhood aka the American government and too many of its white citizens - not all of them fortunately; nonetheless, America has been our Nazi Germany and our Auschwitz!

And what was so ironic about it, black troops were sent to theaters around the world to fight against Aryanism, when the same conditions awaited them once they returned back home - the same conditions that they were sent away to fight against! Now is that Aryan schizophrenia or what? Having said that, I could never understand the schizophrenia of the KKK, a group who lambasted the Jews, but the same KKK that embraced a Jewish Jesus. How many black matrons nursed their children? Strom Thurmond, can you hear me? Nutty or what?

The black American holocaust persisted over a period of centuries in Nazi America, it won't simply go away because some individuals try to turn the tables and blame us for the problem, or because they cannot countenance the fact that they were the purveyors of racial injustice just like those of Hitler Germany and the Aryans! Who practiced eugenics on us I ask?

Representative Barbara Lee of Oakland California said it best in one of the CBC meetings, why don't we just call it what it is, White Supremacy - for this thing is bigger than racism. I am often accused of being angry by my friends, which is a non-sequitur because anger is not always a bad thing -read the Bible. Even my Jewish friends have intimated, on occasions, the same; still those same individuals never associate the word anger with their remembrances or depictions of their experiences or their ancestors plight when they recall, rehearse or get together in order to lament their experiences or those of their ancestors. The Rev is simply keeping the record straight.

Some Americans still won't address the problem or talk about it, they simply blame the recipients of a problem; a problem that they did not create - the evils that were brought about and sustained as a result of the attitudes and beliefs of 'our critics', and purveyors of evil, many of of their predecessors, ancestors and parents! Many of our critics support the Jewish Holocaust survivors financially and by other deeds. And many in this group of Americans answered 'yes' before; when the nation considered whether or not reparations should be paid to the Japanese people who were also interred in prison camps during WWII.

The Jews were told, apparently by God, to accept reparations prior to leaving their 4-centuries of bondage in Egypt. However, whenever blacks mention reparations...? How dare anyone millitate against, or attempt to mitigate our experience - I'm not having it!

Hopefully, when the King Memorial is completed and someday opened to the public, some of the critics of Dr. King won't deface it! I was blessed to be at the ground-breaking ceremonies of the MLK Memorial in Washington DC which is strategically situated in between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, last year as Rev. Andrew Young, being supported by the Rev. Jesse Jackson broke down into inconsolable tears when the shovels broke ground!

The first edition of the King Encyclopedia will be available in stores this month!

No comments: