Posted on: 04/04/08:
In acknowledging the death of Martin Luther King Jr, which is today, "Michael Eric Dyson ends his book, April 4, 1968 (Basic Civitas Books, 2008) with an imaginary Q&A with MLK at age 80 in which King 'speaks' out on Barack, Oprah, hip-hop, homosexuality and his depression."
AFTERWARDTo read the rest of the article, click here.
If Dr. King had lived, what might he say about what he sees today? This is but a small piece of what I think he might have thought about a few personal and social issues, offered in the same spirit that he penned his letter to the American church as the Apostle Paul. The occasion for the interview is a celebration of Dr. King's 80th birthday, which, of course, had he lived, would be nowhere near a national holiday.
QUESTION: Dr. King, how does it feel to turn 80 years old? It's such a milestone.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING: I must confess to you that I never thought I'd make it to this age. During the most intense moments of our struggle, there was a great deal of hatred and danger directed at us. I personally faced constant death threats. Many of our greatest leaders and most stalwart activists were brutally murdered. Medgar Evers was shot down like an animal in Mississippi, and in the same state, those three brave young civil rights workers were viciously murdered. And one can't forget the incredible sacrifice that those four young girls made when they were blown to premature martyrdom in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Spike Lee's very fine documentary, Four Little Girls, captures the sense of terror we all faced during those times, but also the dignity and courage of the people too.
As far back as 1956 I had to face the real possibility that I would die. After all, my house was bombed during the Montgomery bus boycott. When I look back on many of the sermons and speeches that I gave during the sixties, I can clearly see that I was trying to address our people's grief and suffering, and trying to inspire them to keep going in the midst of the death and hatred we faced on a daily basis. But to be honest, I was also trying to come to grips with my own mortality in a movement where it seemed guaranteed that I would be made a sacrificial lamb. But contrary to what some might have believed, I had no martyr complex. I repeatedly stated that I wanted to live as long as anybody, and so...
QUESTION: Well, that's certainly borne out by a statement you made in Montgomery, Alabama, in May of 1965, where you expressed a great deal of frustration and anger over the killing of Negroes while the government sat idly by. You said that "when they kill Negroes and civil rights workers in Alabama, nothing is done about it. Under the administration of Governor George Wallace alone 10 people have been killed during civil rights demonstrations." Do you remember that statement?
KING: Absolutely, like it was yesterday. I also said, "What we are saying now is that we are tired of this. Our lives are too precious. We are saying to the State of Alabama, now you're not going to frighten us into submission. If you kill one Negro, or one white ally, then you're going to have to kill ten, and if you kill ten, you're going to have to kill 20, and if you kill 20, you're going to have to kill 100, and if you kill 100, then you're going to have to kill a thousand!"
QUESTION: But did you ever have a stronger sense you were going to die than at other times? There's famous newsreel footage of you explaining in rather stark and dramatic terms how you thought you were going to die one night in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Could that be considered such a moment?